Susan Collins Wins Re-Election

Her Democratic opponent has conceded.

FILE – This pair of file photos shows incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, right, who are running for Senate in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. (AP Photos, File)

As improbable as it seemed 24 hours ago, Republican Susan Collins has managed to get re-elected in overwhelmingly Democratic Maine.

WaPo (“Sen. Susan Collins addresses supporters after Democrat Sara Gideon concedes Senate race in Maine“):

Sen. Susan Collins addressed supporters Wednesday, telling them challenger Democrat Sara Gideon had called to concede as they awaited official results in Maine’s Senate race.

Speaking outside her election headquarters in Bangor, the longtime GOP incumbent said she had just received a “very gracious call from Sara Gideon conceding the race.”

“I want to publicly thank Sara for her call. We had a good talk, and I very much appreciated her taking the time to call,” Collins said. “Let me say what an extraordinary honor it is to represent the great state of Maine and to know that I will have the opportunity to serve all of Maine for the next six years.”

She called the outcome an “affirmation of the work I’m doing in Washington to fight hard every day, to fight hard every day for the people of Maine.”

A Collins win would further narrow Democrats’ chances of claiming a Senate majority.

In remarks shortly after Collins finished speaking, Gideon confirmed that she called the senator to concede.

“Just now I spoke with Senator Collins. I congratulated her on winning this election, and I told her that I will always be available to help serve the people of Maine,” Gideon said. “Ultimately, that’s why I entered this race, and it’s why I got involved in public service in the first place.”

Gideon also told her supporters, “I am proud of the campaign we ran, and regardless of the result, together we built a movement that will help us make progress for years to come.”

Collins, who would be serving a fifth term in the Senate, is one of the few remaining moderate, pro-abortion-rights Republicans. She had faced a potential challenge with Maine’s unique ranked-choice system, which allows voters to rank candidates by preference.

As of about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Collins was hovering just under 50 percent of the vote — the threshold she would need to win outright and avoid multiple tabulation rounds under the ranked-choice system.

Given that Maine is employing instant run-off voting this year, it’s odd that Gideon conceded rather than just wait for the final results. Presumably, she knows something we don’t about the numbers.

Mitch McConnell will almost surely continue to be the Majority Leader. We’ll see if Joe Biden is any more adept at forging policy compromise with him than Barack Obama was.

UPDATE: FiveThirtyEight’s Meredith Conroy adds:

ABC News has projected that Susan Collins will defeat Sara Gideon, a surprise finish to Maine’s Senate race, which our final forecast thought had a 59 out of 100 chance to go to Gideon. But it does mirror a broader trend we are seeing in the House: Republican women winning races where they were facing off against Democratic women who were either expected to win, or where it looked like the race would be close. For instance, in Florida’s 27th District, Maria Elvira Salazar is projected to defeat Donna Shalala; in Oklahoma’s 5th District, Stephanie Bice is projected to defeat Kendra Horn; and in Iowa’s 1st District, Ashley Hinson is projected to defeat Abby Finkenauer. Shalala, Horn and Finkenauer won their seats in the 2018 midterm elections.

Too small an n to draw any real conclusions but an interesting microtrend.

Her colleague Geoffrey Skelley alleviates some of my confusion as to the concession:

The incumbent, who trailed in most polls down the stretch, outperformed the polls and currently holds a 50 percent to 43 percent lead over Gideon, with 75 percent of the expected vote reporting. If the race were closer and neither candidate had a majority, that might have opened the door for Gideon to win because of ranked-choice voting, as the third-place finisher Lisa Savage has 4 percent and was running to Gideon’s left. But with Collins hovering right around the 50 percent mark, Gideon decided there was no path for her. This is a potential death knell for the Democrats’ Senate hopes, too, which already looked pretty cooked.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Given that Maine is employing instant run-off voting this year, it’s odd that Gideon conceded rather than just wait for the final results. Presumably, she knows something we don’t about the numbers.

    Her concession also means nothing. Right now, I would expect Collins to win, since she is so close to the 50% mark — some voters likely had her as their second choice, and basically any of them would be enough to push her over the mark.

    But, we should be counting every vote, and if Gideon somehow wins, force her to take her seat in the Senate.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    trump appears to think Peters has won the race in Michigan.

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  3. Jen says:

    Mitch McConnell will almost surely continue to be the Majority Leader. We’ll see if Joe Biden is any more adept at forging policy compromise with him than Barack Obama was.

    Biden, if elected, needs to make clear to McConnell that while he’d rather work with the Senate, he’s seen exactly how Trump has used executive orders and “acting” heads as work-arounds and that he’ll do the same, while giving exactly zero fcks.

    Democrats need to govern and not take this constant crap from the Majority Leader.

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Mind boggled.

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  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    In one of his last posts, Doug called this race. Said Collins was a come from behind fighter who doesn’t go down easily.

    In case he’s reading this, well done.

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  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Given that Maine is employing instant run-off voting this year, it’s odd that Gideon conceded rather than just wait for the final results. Presumably, she knows something we don’t about the numbers.

    Just a (hopefully) not too wild guess from a person about whom ranked choice voting is supposedly targeted: A third party vote is, at it’s base, a vote for “none of the above.” (At least, it’s been my only reason for ever voting 3rd party, and I suspect that I’m not particularly unique.) If the non-incumbent were an acceptable candidate to the mind of that voter, there would be no reason to vote 3rd party. When the demand is that the voter rank their second and additional choices, it may not be all that surprising that voters will break preferring “the devil you know” over “the devil you don’t.” That the opponent has a track record at lower level government will probably not be enough to overcome the advantages that picking the incumbent as second choice will provide–seniority, place in the Congressional pecking order, proven skill as a pork producer, and so on.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    If the non-incumbent were an acceptable candidate to the mind of that voter, there would be no reason to vote 3rd party. When the demand is that the voter rank their second and additional choices, it may not be all that surprising that voters will break preferring “the devil you know” over “the devil you don’t.”

    I’ll defer to Steven or another specialist in electoral systems but I’m not sure this is the case. There have been elections where I would have preferred to send a signal by voting a third party candidate but didn’t want to “waste” my vote, so just went for the major party candidate I least disliked. RCV eliminates that pressure.

    And a Green voter who hates Biden/Clinton just as much as Trump doesn’t have to rank a second choice.

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  8. Kathy says:

    Here’s my wild, stupid hypothetical, just because it’s 2020 and I wish “killing time” had a more literal meaning:

    If the Senate ends up 51-49 in the GOP’s favor, is there a snowball’s chance in Hell of convincing a GOP Senator to switch parties?

    By convincing, I mean bribing. Short of the Majority Leader position, they’d be given just about anything else they wanted.

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  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: If 3rd party voters don’t have to register a second choice, how will the count change? Yeah, I get that some will, but unless most do, it’s hard to get to 50% 1 for the win unless the 2nd place candidate is too far behind to win to begin with–in which case the “majority” is simply smoke and mirrors cosplay.

    As a non-voter, ranked choice voting as you just described it isn’t convincing me that I need to do anything different about elections, but if you guys can convince the rubes that it makes a difference, go for it. ETA: I’m not seeing my participation contributing to a worthwhile outcome by holding my nose and pulling Trump as my second choice (for example).

    Throwing your vote away isn’t just about 3rd parties; it’s also about supporting parties that have the same old bullshit year after year passing the expense of government onto future generations and taxing people on fixed incomes via inflation and rent seeking. ETA: But I get that the second problem is of no consequence because it’s not affecting you.

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  10. DrDaveT says:

    Mitch McConnell will almost surely continue to be the Majority Leader. We’ll see if Joe Biden is any more adept at forging policy compromise with him than Barack Obama was.

    You can’t possibly believe that there was anything Obama could have done to “forge policy compromise” with McConnell, can you? I mean, you’re not an idiot. Right?

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  11. mike shupp says:

    @Kathy: About your ” wild, stupid hypothetical” … I could see it happening. Senators have been known to change parties before — Strom Thurmond was a Democrat back when I was born, for example. As for the exact nature of the “bribe”, I’d not recommend money, as that would only excite voters once the details inevitably leaked. But offering a change of committees — from Environment to Appropriations, say — might do the trick.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    You can’t possibly believe that there was anything Obama could have done to “forge policy compromise” with McConnell, can you?

    McConnell made no bones that thwarting Obama’s agenda and making him a one-termer was his top priority. But Obama was also playing the “I won, get over it” card pretty hard early.

    I think it’s possible that Biden and McConnell have a personal relationship from long Senate careers that may change the dynamic. Additionally, I think Biden might be better than Obama at using the bully pulpit to leverage the public against obstructionism.

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  13. mike shupp says:

    Biden and his people have something Obama and his team didn’t have in 2009 — a decade of watching Moscow Mitch run the Senate. I don’t think they’ll be quite as slow to realize that bipartisanship is more theoretical than actual these days.

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