A mulligan for Collins?

By Sam Patten | Sep 21, 2020

It will be a busy week for the White House counsel’s office, and for everyone else recruited to push a nominee onto the country’s highest court before Election Day. That is, assuming they get that far.

It took three months to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and now President Trump proposes filling the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death in half that time. George Washington appointed 14 justices in his term, Franklin Roosevelt and John Tyler had nine each. In gunning for three, Trump is relying on his signature feat of maximum polarization.

Whether he succeeds will be the source of endless media speculation. But the impact of another Supreme Court fight on those down the ballot is just as interesting to those of us in Maine. Fighting the toughest race of her career, Sen. Susan Collins has already said filling RBG’s seat should be the right of whoever wins the Nov. 3 election.

It’s sort of poetic justice when you consider the resources that buoyed Sara Gideon’s challenge to Collins all started with the Kavanaugh fight. Before Collins even decided whether or not to confirm him two years ago, activists were putting pressure on her through crowd-funding her virtual opponent, tempting even Susan Rice to throw her name into consideration for a minute.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose three Republican votes, and Collins was the first to oppose a confirmation vote before the election, followed the next day by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

If she bucks the president this time, Collins may win a second look from the first Congressional District Biden voters she needs to seek out reelection. But a third of Maine voters who are socially conservative will be reminded of the doubts they had about her before Kavanaugh, and the president’s trial in the Senate. It would be, as her allies have said of Gideon, a gamble.

Being the one who pressed pause on a searing and divisive Senate battle gives Collins a chance to be independent again.

Now, this depends on the nominee, as process is only interesting until there is an actual person to consider. We can safely assume two things: she will be a woman, and she will be conservative. Both female candidates whose names have been bandied about in the past 12 hours are Catholic, which shouldn’t matter, but in the age of identity, politics does. The president will use the nominee as a battering ram against Biden with bellwether Catholics (despite the fact that Biden is an observant Catholic and Trump is not).

If the nominee is very compelling on her own merits, that could put Collins in another bind: Will she reject a good candidate on principle? That would belie her logic for supporting Kavanaugh, though I believe the real reason she did is because she objected to the fact he was set up, and she didn’t like being intimidated by activists. However the Ginsburg vacancy is addressed, it is not likely to go down like Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Even though Collins doesn’t serve on Judiciary, she will have the chance of a high-profile role should a nominee be brought up for a vote. It could be a scenario that allows her to cast her last SCOTUS vote as a mulligan — to its vocal critics anyway — and afford her a do-over. Obviously, there are many unknowns between now and then, but it’s safe to bet a forced confirmation could change the dynamic in the Maine Senate race.

Last week’s polls showed Collins further behind than I’d thought. If she sticks to her guns on the position she took this weekend, that gap will narrow again, and she just might win.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Sep 23, 2020 09:44

Collins marches in lockstep with the most corrupt 'administration' this nation has ever witnessed. It is time to put her out to pasture.

Posted by: RALPH WALLACE | Sep 23, 2020 09:18

Only in Maine can a decent, honorable Republican senator be faulted for (1) voting for an unjustly-accused justice; (2) supporting the President of her own party; (3) calling for a delay in the selection of a SCOTUS nominee; (4) being "too bipartisan"  Besides acting boldly to protect her constituents from the COVD disaster, and a career of doing everything possible to assist workers and citizens in her beloved Maine, and all against the most bipartisan record in congress, what more must this lady do to earn re-election. She truly embodies the saying, "No good deed shall go unpunished."

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Sep 22, 2020 16:59


Biden on abolition from the debates.

"I accept my church's position that life begins at conception. That's the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and--I just refuse to impose that on others,"

Posted by: William & Lorraine Ryan | Sep 22, 2020 15:10

With Biden's support of abortion, I would be hard-pressed to say he is an observant catholic


Posted by: Tom Von Malder | Sep 22, 2020 12:53

Collins not voting for is not the same as Collins voting against, as that would leave the presumed againsts at 47. And what would she do if she loses her election and the vote is during the lame duck session?

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