What to make of Susan Collins’ stand against Donald Trump

Good morning from Augusta. All eyes are on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins after her bombshell Washington Post op-ed that said she won’t vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

She’s one of only a few Republican senators to make that pronouncement so far, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

The only prominent Maine Republican before her to come out against Trump was state Sen. Roger Katz, a moderate from Augusta, who wrote his own Friday op-ed in the Portland Press Herald and sister papers saying Trump “is not fit to be president.”

It’s a move that fits Collins’ reputation as a moderate, though she has moved cautiously on Trump’s divisive campaign so far.

She has criticized Trump frequently, including after he mocked a reporter with a disability, said a Mexican-American judge’s heritage biased him against Trump and feuded with the family of a Muslim-American soldier killed in action.

Collins named those three incidents as helping disqualify Trump, plus a “lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments” that “would make an already perilous world even more so.”

She didn’t mention Trump’s comments on Maine’s Somali community that drew fire from immigrants at the candidate’s Portland rally on Thursday and didn’t say who she was going to vote for, only saying that she wouldn’t support Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton.

It put both of Maine’s parties in interesting positions.

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett faintly praised her in a statement, saying, “I commend Senator Collins for refusing to support Donald Trump’s candidacy, although I do question why it took her so long to find the courage to do so.”

And Maine Republican Party Chairman Rick Bennett addressed a divide in a statement, saying his party is “blessed” with broadness and represents “myriad views on specific issues and candidates.”

“I have always encouraged our activists to work hard for those Republican candidates they support, and not work against those they don’t support,” he said. “This is the best way to give our party the definition desired.”

It was winning Collins praise in some segments of the punditry, with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof saying, “In an age of hyper-partisanship, I’m awed by how many Republicans put country over Trump.”

The Boston Globe’s James Pindell compared it to the most famous moment from Collins’ heroine, the late Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, the Maine Republican who denounced the virulent anti-communist politics of McCarthyism in her 1948 “Declaration of Conscience” speech.

But Alex Shephard of The New Republic said Collins “isn’t exactly a profile in courage” and it “would be a more compelling argument if Collins et al were more willing to discuss policy, instead of relying solely on temperament.”

“Until that happens, the argument is based solely on aesthetics: The problem with Trump is not what he proposes, but how he proposes it,” he said.

However, it will increase pressure on other wavering Republicans to state a position. That includes U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd District, who hasn’t endorsed Trump publicly and has mostly declined to answer questions on the nominee.

Poliquin’s running a nationally targeted rematch of his 2014 race with Democrat Emily Cain, who on Tuesday ramped up her attacks on him, saying Collins’ move “has blown the lid off of Congressman Poliquin’s strategy of playing both sides.”

Maybe Cain isn’t the person most likely to get an answer from Poliquin, but he’s the next big Republican domino left to fall on the subject of Trump. He can expect more questions now that Collins’ cards are on the table. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • A progressive group working to get money out of politics is spending money in Maine’s 2nd District. End Citizens United, which has endorsed Cain’s bid to unseat Poliquin, said Monday that it reserved $200,000 in late August ad time in the Portland and Bangor markets to support Cain.
  • Gov. Paul LePage is in Quebec City on Tuesday to meet with a group of regional leaders. He’s at the Council of State Governments and the Eastern Regional Conference’s annual policy conference, speaking at a lunchtime roundtable with governors and Canadian provincial leaders on “a regional partnership for shared prosperity.”
  • LePage’s Wednesday town hall meeting in Sanford has been postponed. His office said it will be rescheduled.
  • U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree will visit a Portland summer meal site and the Augusta Farmers Market on Tuesday. Alongside the Democrat from Maine’s 1st District will be Kevin Concannon, a USDA under secretary and former Maine Department of Health and Human Services commissioner. They’ll be at Unity Village in Portland from 12 p.m. to 12:30 and in Augusta from 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

 Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Cryptic dysfunction: A man in Portland seems to be bootlegging erectile dysfunction drugs (which, yes, is illegal). “I do use them,” he says, “and they are awesome.” He urges men to leave him a message and “when awake I will get back. My info will be there. Use it if you can. Traveling is my thing, but that is relative like everything else.”
  • Cop chaser: “Damn,” a woman says after noticing a young police officer in Carrabassett Valley, “just had to let you know how sexy you are pretty sad that I hope you pull me over.”
  • A specific demographic: “Do you buy houses dressed as one gender and sell dressed as another?” a casting call asks. “If so we’d love to hear your story.” — Michael Shepherd
Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.