I might need a ruling from the rest of the Hot Air team as to whether this counts as an SSM endorsement for purposes of the pool. Granted, granted, she never says outright that she supports legalizing gay marriage, but there’s not a whiff of reluctance about the idea in the course of two paragraphs. Read it and ask yourself: Does this sound like someone who opposes SSM? Or is this statement what it looks like, i.e. a pure dodge aimed at placating Maine moderates by trumpeting gay rights on the one hand while pandering to Republican primary voters by refusing to plainly endorse gay marriage on the other? Remember, tea partiers in Maine were powerful enough to elect Paul LePage governor during the last midterm in 2010. Collins is up next year and already has a few potentially primary-worthy RINO demerits to her record. She likely thinks she can’t afford one more.

She was, as it happens, the very first Republican I thought of a few weeks ago in speculating who’s likely to follow Rob Portman on the gay-marriage bandwagon.

DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, before Senator Collins was elected to Congress. Since that time, in 2004 and 2006, Senator Collins twice voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by pre-empting state laws. Senator Collins believes this matter is best left up to the states, which have traditionally handled family law, and increasingly, the voters of states are choosing to legalize same-sex marriages as Maine did last fall.

Recognizing that LGBT Americans should be protected from discrimination, Senator Collins has led efforts in Congress to extend federal benefits to gay men and women and their families. She has authored legislation that would extend benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees, bringing the employment practices of the federal government in line with those of most large employers. She has cosponsored legislation that would prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Most recently, Senator Collins became the first Republican in the Senate to cosponsor legislation to update U.S. immigration law to permit American citizens to sponsor same-sex permanent partners applying for legal residency in the United States, and she joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in introducing a bipartisan bill that would prevent discrimination against lesbian and gay citizens during the federal jury selection process.

So she’s willing to let U.S. citizens sponsor their “same-sex permanent partners” from another country for legal residency here but, in theory, she’s … undecided on gay marriage? Show of hands: Who here doesn’t fully expect Collins to go the McCaskill/Tester route within a few months of being reelected next November? I think this should count as a pool winner, guys. Answering the question “Do you support gay marriage?” by essentially covering your mouth while nodding yes shouldn’t be treated as a “no comment.” Ramesh Ponnuru’s surely right about the following, and just as surely Collins is one of the people who’d vote yes on the secret ballot:

On that note, congrats to commenter melle1228, who guessed in the Tester thread that Collins or Murkowski would be the next domino to fall. I’ll stick with my prediction that Tom Carper will follow, sometime maybe, oh, let’s say tomorrow a.m. at around 11. Ed’s offered his own pool prediction in the Greenroom; Gabe Malor, one of Ace’s co-bloggers, tweeted his earlier. Get some of this action in the comments below.