Monday, December 01, 2008

Maine Senate: Collins Demonstrated Widespread Appeal in Victory

By Nathan L. Gonzales

Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) was one of the few Republicans who looked increasingly solid as the campaign developed, rather than more vulnerable. Her 61 percent to 39 percent victory over Rep. Tom Allen (D) was impressive, but even that margin doesn’t paint the whole picture of how well she did — and the Senator did it at the same time then-Sen. Barack Obama (D) carried Maine by 17 points.

Collins won an amazing 40 percent of Obama voters. That was against a sitting Democratic Congressman who has represented half of the state for more than a decade. She also won one-third of self-described liberal voters and one-third of Democratic voters. Wyoming’s two Senators were the only other Republican Senate candidates to reach those numbers. And there is a difference between liberals in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Portland, Maine.

Collins also won approximately two-thirds of self-described moderates and independents.

But her support with liberals and voters in the middle didn’t hurt her among the GOP base. Collins won 90 percent of Republicans, which was more than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) were able to keep in the tent. She also won 85 percent of conservatives, placing her behind only Roberts and Wyoming’s duo.

Collins also scored an impressive 59 percent with female voters. In comparison, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won 34 percent of women in the Maine presidential contest. Maine’s junior Senator also won almost two-thirds of the male vote.

Collins’ victory shows that not all pre-election storylines materialize into reality. Running for re-election in a blue state, against a Democratic Congressman who represented half of the state, and in the shadow of her colleague, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), was supposed to guarantee supreme vulnerability.

But Collins ran like a vulnerable incumbent from the beginning, and despite a late September Mellman Group poll that showed an 8-point race, the outcome was never in doubt.

This story first appeared on on November 26, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.