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Renée Graham

Susan Collins is sad. She should be worried.

True to form,  Senator Susan Collins may be “disappointed” next year to find more Maine voters than ever are tired of being disappointed by her.
True to form, Senator Susan Collins may be “disappointed” next year to find more Maine voters than ever are tired of being disappointed by her. Alex Brandon/AP/file 2018/Associated Press

SUSAN COLLINS IS sad.

The Republican senator knows some are still upset that she helped send an alleged sexual predator to the Supreme Court.

“Have I lost some votes because of my decision to support Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh? Yes, I have. And I’m sad about that because I explained in great depth my decision-making,” Collins said in a recent Politico interview. But, she added, “there still is an appreciation in Maine for someone who looks at the facts of an issue [and] votes with integrity and independence.”

Collins does no such thing. That’s why she should be more than sad. She should be worried.

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While Election Day 2020 is still more than a year away, Collins is already facing the fight of her political life. In reality, that battle began last October when Collins delivered an exhausting 45-minute screed on the Senate floor on her decision to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. It wasn’t just that she pushed aside Christine Blasey Ford’s credible sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh when both were teenagers more than 30 years ago.

Putting Kavanaugh on the court, some argued, would imperil Roe v. Wade. Collins was unconvinced, although several states have since drafted harsh abortion restrictions, all but ensuring an eventual Supreme Court fight.

A lifetime appointment, Kavanaugh’s job is secure. Collins’s, not so much.

This isn’t to say that a Collins defeat is guaranteed. She’s been a popular senator in her native Maine since 1997. In her last reelection campaign, in 2014, she won 68 percent of the vote. Still, much has changed in the past five years — namely, Donald Trump’s presidency. If Collins could once take for granted bipartisan support in her state, that may no longer be the case in a nation so politically polarized.

Democrats have thrown their hopes and wallets behind Sara Gideon, Maine’s House speaker, who quickly raised more than $1 million after declaring her candidacy. This is expected to be the most expensive election in the state’s history.

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Of course, as with every election these days, this is as much about running against Trump, his catastrophic policies, and Republicans doing nothing as the president runs roughshod over the rule of law, the Constitution, and anything vaguely resembling normal governance.

Collins was once considered relatively reliable in bucking her party’s hard line. Unlike, say, Lindsey Graham, the senator and presidential attack/lapdog, Collins has one of the lower percentages for voting in line with Trump’s position.

Still, this presidency has meant the evaporation of a Republican center (however slight it was), and Collins is no longer likely to buck the president’s will, especially when it comes to something he desperately wants.

Perhaps Collins quakes at the notion of ending up in Trump’s Twitter crosshairs, and losing his supporters as a result. Of course, that didn’t deter Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who spoke with sexual assault survivors, from being the only Republican to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Trump warned that Murkowski would “never recover from this,” and that her constituents would “never forgive her for what she did.”

Meanwhile, he had nothing but high praise for Collins: “I think she’s got a level of respect that’s unbelievable.”

We’ll see.

This, we already know. Collins is sad about voters likely to turn their backs on her at the polls. She’s sad her self-inflicted reputation for being against something until she’s for it is catching up with her. She’s sad that it’s clear that, like her fellow GOP cohorts in the upper chamber, she values party over country. Or, to be more precise, Trump over America.

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True to form, Collins may be “disappointed” next year to find more Maine voters than ever are tired of being disappointed by her.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.