Welcome to the fifth edition of Swing Left Maine’s News Digest. Between now and the November election we will periodically offer concise summaries of news stories related to the state of play in Maine electoral politics, with special attention to the race for the United States Senate seat currently held by Senator Susan Collins. This marquee race will have consequences far beyond Maine and is being prioritized by both the Republican and Democratic parties because control of the U.S. Senate could well be decided by Maine voters. We will also be keeping an eye on how the presidential contest is playing out in Maine, and on the two congressional races, especially the competitive second congressional district currently represented by freshman Congressman Jared Golden.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate the news, and will likely continue to do so for some time. It will also certainly play a major role in this year’s elections. As we saw last week, voters in Wisconsin were forced to choose between their personal safety and exercising their right to vote, thanks to an order by the U.S. Supreme Court that outraged many. But the November election is also likely to be a referendum on President Trump’s response, or non-response to the crisis. The 2020 election season is sure to be unlike any we have ever lived through.
In each issue of this News Digest, to be distributed by email, we will digest news stories, mostly from the Maine press but occasionally from the national media, that we think will be of interest to those working to help Maine swing left. Each story summary will include a link to the full story so you can easily read more about those that interest you. (Note that you may need a subscription to view the full article depending on the source.)
If we miss a story (we can’t read everything, after all!) that you think should be shared, please email either Tom Redburn at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Zheutlin at email@example.com and let us know. Thanks!
• Maine is receiving only a small fraction of the rapid-response coronavirus testing kits that the federal government promised, forcing the Maine CDC to “go back to the drawing board” to find ways to contain the spread of the disease. (Bangor Daily News, April 8, 2020)
• To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Janet Mills is pushing back Maine’s primary from June 9th to July 14th, for U.S. Senate and state legislative races. The executive order also relaxes requirements for absentee ballots. (News Center Maine, April 10, 2020)
• In an op-ed piece, Sara Gideon, the favorite to win the Democratic nomination to face Susan Collins for the U.S. Senate seat in November, called for the federal government to marshal the resources to produce more protective equipment for health care providers, pointing out that Maine has received only a tiny fraction of its need, in contrast to other states with more political sway in Washington. (Portland Press-Herald, April 5, 2020)
• Meanwhile, Susan Collins’s focus has been on additional relief from the federal government to help mitigate the damage from COVID-19 to small businesses. Democrats are urging more money for state and local governments, rural hospitals, the jobless, and even struggling news organizations. (Lewiston Sun-Journal, April 9, 2020)
• As we learned in 2016, taking comfort in polls can be a fool’s errand. Though the national polls were quite accurate in showing Hillary Clinton with about a 2% national edge over Donald Trump, and she won the popular vote by that much, state level polling failed to predict Trump’s narrow electoral college victory (narrow in the sense that 77,000 votes across three critical states was the margin of difference). So, take it with a grain of salt, but state level polling by MSN shows Joe Biden competitive even in states such as Texas, Montana, and Alaska and with comfortable leads in many swing states. In Maine, Biden currently leads Trump 55% to 37%. The data is updated regularly so you can check back to see the results of MSN’s latest polling. (MSN.com, April 11, 2020)
• Closer to home, a new poll shows that only 37% of Maine voters approve of Senator Susan Collins’s job performance while 52% disapprove. Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, enjoys the approval of 59% of Maine voters. Both of Maine’s congressional representatives, Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, have far higher approval numbers than disapproval, though a significant percentage of voters didn’t register their opinion one way or the other. Generally, Maine voters give the state higher marks than the federal government for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bangor Daily News, April 13, 2020)