I find myself constantly torn between an immovable object and an irresistible force in trying to size up this Senate race. The immovable object is my sense that Collins will be the toughest purple-state senator for Democrats to dislodge, partly because she’s been in office for so long and partly because she’s taken such care to cultivate her brand as a centrist. It paid off for her too: She consistently runs a few points ahead of Trump in Mane polling this year, proof that she’s picking up some Biden voters. It’s one thing for Dems to oust a first-term incumbent like Cory Gardner or Joni Ernst. But Susan Collins?
The irresistible force is that the polls are what they are and the national dynamic is what it is. Maine is a blue state and Biden is a stronger candidate than Hillary Clinton was. And the contest between Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon has been remarkably stable for months. In mid-July a Colby College poll found Gideon up five. A Bangor Daily News poll a few weeks later had Gideon ahead by … five. Last week’s NYT/Siena poll? Gideon by five. (A Quinnipiac poll published around the same time found Gideon up 12. That’s the one outlier.)
I gave away the result in today’s new Suffolk poll in my headline but you could have guessed. What makes Suffolk’s result noteworthy is that the poll was conducted from Thursday through Sunday, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and Collins announced that she thinks the next president should fill Ginsburg’s seat. If anything might upend this race, it’s a thermonuclear SCOTUS battle coupled with Collins trying to maneuver her way between furious Democrats and furious Republicans, right? Nope: