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Collins trails in Maine Senate race, according to a new poll

Senator Susan Collins.
Senator Susan Collins.Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Embattled Republican incumbent US Senator Susan Collins is trailing her Democratic challenger, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, by 5 percentage points, according to a new Colby College poll released Tuesday afternoon.

The poll of 888 likely Maine voters found that 44 percent backed Gideon and 39 percent backed Collins. The poll used a mix of phone calls and an internet survey and had a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

A different poll released last week from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling also found Gideon was ahead by five points.

Maine’s Senate contest is the most high-profile race in New England and one of the most closely watched nationwide, as Democrats likely need to win the seat in order to gain the Senate majority. It is also already the most expensive political contest in state history, given that both candidates have raised over $30 million combined and super PACs from both sides have contributed millions more.

Gideon officially became the Democratic nominee in a primary two weeks ago.

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The Colby poll, conducted July 18-24, found that Collins, who four years ago was one the most popular senators in the country, had a 42 percent favorability rating. Gideon, meanwhile, had a 46 percent favorability rating. Breaking down the numbers, pollsters said that Collins had less support among younger voters, women, and those living in cities.

Collins has long projected herself as a centrist, independent-minded Republican in what has largely been a slightly Democratic state. But in this poll, just 15 percent of respondents said Collins was “not tied to either party and is independent-minded,” while 46 percent said she “sides with Republicans but is somewhat independent-minded,” and 39 percent said she “she nearly always sides with Republicans and is not independent-minded.”

“Moderation has been key to the senator’s image for more than two decades,” noted Colby College Government Department chairman Dan Shea. “If that perception is gone, voters will fall back on their partisanship or attitudes toward the top of the ticket. When combined with the President’s low approval rating across the state, that spells trouble for Susan.”

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In the presidential race, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden led President Trump statewide 50 percent to 38 percent among the likely voters polled. Though Maine gives an Electoral College vote to each of its pair of Congressional districts. In 2016, Trump picked off an electoral vote in the northern 2nd Congressional District, while Democrat Hillary Clinton picked up the three other electoral votes.

When this poll looked at just the 2nd Congressional District, Biden only led by 45 percent to 42 percent, well within the margin of error.





James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.