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For an optimistic Democrat, this year's Senate race in Maine between Sen. Susan Collins and ACLU Director Shenna Bellows is probably the toughest to call accurately.  Collins is a popular, moderate incumbent in a state that's solidly blue and highly elastic with its voting patterns.  Collins won by 23% in 2008 as Obama took the state 17%.  Bellows comes across as a strong candidate in a small state, yet she is a B-lister running against an incumbent who beat an A-lister by 23% in one of our best years.  It almost doesn't compute.

We have a real chance of losing the Senate this year, which means we can't be throwing away races in blue states.  But there's a real question of whether or not this one is winnable.  I'm going to try to look at both sides of the argument and let the community decide.

Yes, it's winnable

1. Maine is a blue state.  If Bellows, a field expert and veteran, can identify Obama voters and get just a large fraction (I'll leave it to the campaign to determine that fraction) of them to vote for her, which I would assume is their natural predisposition, she would win.

2. Maine has a larger than average presence of Green Party voters and Ron Paul supporters.  Bellows is probably the best example of a libertarian Democrat there is at the national level, so I think she would be uniquely qualified to appeal to these voters.  3.5% of Maine voters are registered to the Green Party out of about 950,000, and Ron Paul nearly won Maine's Republican Presidential caucus in 2012.  It's a unique situation that can be taken advantage of.

3. As mentioned above, Bellows is a field expert who really knows grassroots campaigning, and I think that's where she'll put most of her money.  That's how to beat an entrenched incumbent, particularly one who represents an electorate their party is not in sync with.

4. Democrats in the state are already energized to defeat their Tea Party Governor, and we have a strong nominee running against him.  A coordinated campaign between Mike Michard and Bellows should help Bellow's numbers.

No, it's not winnable

1. Bellows is a complete unknown in a state that regularly reelects incumbents.  This is also her first run for elective office.  She is a B-list candidate running against a woman who beat an A-lister by 23%.

2. Bellows is a social libertarian (I believe that's the correct term; please correct me if I'm wrong).  This is both outside of the mainstream of the Democratic Party and of Maine, which is a moderate state.  Social libertarianism may not play with the voting majority.

3. Collins is a strong incumbent.  She is well liked and long serving, and hasn't done anything to piss off voters, which is usually the only way people with that pedigree lose.

4. This race isn't getting national attention.  I suppose you could argue that this is a good thing if she's doing a grassroots campaign, but it also means she probably won't be getting financial reinforcements from the DSCC.

I'm completely torn about whether or not this race is winnable.  The evidence seems to point towards no, but the race also seems unique enough that it could break precedent.  What does everyone think?

Originally posted to Trosk on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 09:54 AM PDT.

Also republished by BellowsforSenate.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If it is that close then we need to double down. (5+ / 0-)

    Collins is beatable.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:11:44 AM PDT

    •  No, unfortunately and in part it's team D's fault (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buffie, commonmass

      Collins is beatable with a campaign that starts early to attack her false branding as a moderate.  Even the diarist fell for that one.  Democrats haven't done that.  Bellows has stabbed at Collins brand, but to little effect because framing is a long term project.  So, I think Bellows is a great candidate, and that she has bigger things in her future, but one of those things is not being a US senator starting 2015.

      •  Bellows has picked up a string of endorsements (4+ / 0-)

        with more coming seemingly every day. There is a great diary up about Bellows at the Planned Parenthood/NOW/ACLU rally at SCOTUS which highlights the failings of Collins when it comes to protecting women's health, and the reason why Bellows is getting their backing.

        This is a much different race than the last one which was run on a DC consultant model, and Bellows is no stranger to grassroots campaigning after helping lead two winning statewide referendum campaigns.

        •  I hope I am wrong (3+ / 0-)

          I certainly hope that you are right.  I've donated to Bellows' campaign.  If I wasn't so deaf, I would volunteer.  Collins' record does not represent the State, and her service to the GOP nationally makes her prospective votes even less likely to address our needs and reflect our values.  

          However, the thing that gets Collins all those votes outside of the County is that 'moderate' image.  As you note, it's a carefully cultivated mask, but it has survived for years.  Obama helps Collins cultivate it while he is searching for bi-partisan fairy dust, and we see the media describe her as a moderate reflexively.  Changing that image will take years of hammering at it.  It's the kind of thing a 50 state strategy might undertake, but that won't yield to a few months of underfunded campaigning.  As I said, I hope I am wrong.

          •  Or one good incident (3+ / 0-)

            Sometimes an incident occurs that encapsulates the message (like Christie's GW bridge backup that brought out his corruption). It is hard to create these incidents and they don't  happen on their own very often, but they can happen and then suddenly the playing field is completely different.

            Collins' voting record is not very moderate. If one of those votes becomes an issue or the Tea Party forces her to vote for something really unpopular in Maine, that might be the incident that would garner her lots of negative media.

  •  No, it's not winnable (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, David Jarman

    The key is here:

    1. Bellows is a complete unknown in a state that regularly reelects incumbents.  This is also her first run for elective office.  She is a B-list candidate running against a woman who beat an A-lister by 23%.

    TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D). Senate ratings map (as of 3/10/14)

    by Le Champignon on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:14:07 AM PDT

  •  I think it is winnible IF we get support from the (4+ / 0-)

    national party and if the Bellows campaign continues to do hard-core canvassing. Paul LePage is unpopular, and while Collins is not extreme, it is going to be necessary to try to tie her to him in any way possible.

    Frankly, I think it is still a little early to say.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 10:23:39 AM PDT

    •  Things are looking better all the time (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence, commonmass

      1) Today Shenna picked up the endorsement of the DSCC. $upport from DC will now complement her grassroots campaigning.

      2) She's also got strong backing from the state party. And in a bit of unexpected good news, the MDP recently received a $300K donation from the Steelworker's Union:

      That it went directly to the Maine Democratic Party's federal fund, and not Maine-based political action committee, is also significant because it may mean more money to fund the ground game for Democratic legislative races and the gubernatorial bid for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, who is hoping to unseat Gov. Paul LePage and defeat independent Eliot Cutler in November.

      A $300,000 expenditure from a PAC is more likely be spent on ads, as was the case when the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the Republican State Leadership Committee posted similarily sized drops in 2012 and 2010. While it's possible that the party could use the USW funds for the same purpose, a big drop like this, this early, could be funding phone banks, canvassing, voter registration drives, etc. The party committees function as the field infrastructure for candidates running for statewide office.

      Dems in Maine are excited this year. And they'll be working to turn out voters for Mike, Shenna and all the races, up and down the ticket.

      Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

      by Illegitimi non carborundum on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 02:24:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What part of Maine is Bellows from? (4+ / 0-)

    One image that Susan Collins (who Mainers call "Su-Co") has always been able to cultivate is that she's just a regular farm girl from The County—i.e., Aroostook County in far northern Maine, where Collins grew up in Caribou.

    She also lives in Bangor, and comes back almost every weekend—and people see her do grocery shopping.

    Mainers in the northern half of the state call themselves the "real Maine" and don't like Portland dictating what to do.

    The reason Susan Collins has always beat Democrats in what could have been winnable races is that she consistently gets opponents from the southern half of the state—Chellie Pingree in 2002, and Tom Allen in 2008.

    The reason Mike Michaud is gonna beat Paul LePage is that he's been the congressman from the northern half of Maine. No way can he get away with being a Portland Democrat.

    So folks who know Shenna Bellows better than me—what part of the state is she from, and who does she identify with?

  •  Nationalize the race. A vote for Susan Collins.... (11+ / 0-)

    .... is a vote for Mitch McConnell to be Majority Leader
    .... is a vote for James Inhofe to "be in charge of the environment.
    .... is a vote for Lindsey Graham to scream "Benghazi !!!"
    .... is a vote to empower Ted Cruz
    .... is a vote to regulate Women's health choices
    .... is a vote to make Paul Lepage's agenda national

    All of this is true regardless of how Collins would vote on a given issue.  A vote for Collins is a vote for putting rightwingers in power.

    I hope Bellows is a good, tough candidate. I never heard of her until about 5 minutes ago.

    Good luck Mainers !!

    •  Agree. Nationalize and tie her to LePage (9+ / 0-)

      Bellows is a good, tough candidate. She's not going to let Collins get away with anything. There are a lot of ticket-splitters in Maine, many from the suburbs of Portland who are socially progressive and environmentalists. Shenna has to convince them that a vote for Collins is a vote to make McConnell the Majority Leader - and in addition to the points you've made, this will make Grassley (or Jeff Sessions) in charge of Judiciary.

      Plus, Collins still doesn't support marriage equality.

      Earlier this year, Collins' political director made it clear they are Team GOP all the way, including re-election of LePage and need for a GOP-controlled Senate:

      A fired-up Bobby Reynolds, of Manchester, political director for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, said Republicans must retain control of the Blaine House and win majorities in the House and Senate.

      Reynolds noted the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, passed in the Senate with no Republican votes; which, he said, shows the urgency of Republicans taking control of both chambers.

      “We need to turn that around so we can unwind that monstrosity of a law,” Reynolds said of Obamacare. “When you caucus, make sure you sign everybody’s petition, and let’s go get them!”

    •  Exactly. n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 08:23:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think the term you are looking for is Civil (4+ / 0-)

    Libertarian, as in 8 years as Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine.

    Bellows is great on the social issues, far better than Collins who 1) voted for the Blunt Amendment allowing employers to limit their employees access to birth control. Also Collins supported Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court
    2)Bellows stood up for privacy and the 4th Amendment, and against the NSA at the ACLU. Collins has been a part of the Homeland Security state for 18 years a  Senator and as a Committee staffer before that.
    3) Bellows is for raising the minimum wage, while Collins voted for the shut down while trying to carve out exemptions for her backers.
    4) Bellows supports the ACA as a first step to universal healthcare. Collins has voted to repeal it.

     this race is going to be a doozy, check it out Here-

    •  And these positions (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RandomNonviolence, commonmass

      are hardly outside the Democratic mainstream in Maine.

      Just as importantly, Bellows is forthright about her positions, and people appreciate that. She often says "You may not always agree with me, but you'll always know where I stand."
      (As opposed to Collins, whose slogan could be "I will be as vague as possible so that you'll think I agree with you, but don't expect to ever pin me down.")

      Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

      by Illegitimi non carborundum on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:49:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Bellows should appeal to (2+ / 0-)

      Women - especially those concerned about birth control and healthcare
      Libertarians - privacy, marijuana reform, voting rights
      Poor and working people - minimum wage and healthcare, voting rights
      LGBT and young people - marriage equality
      Environmentalists
      Anyone terrified of national Republicans (McConnell, Inohofe, Cruz, etc.)

      That's the constituents of a pretty broad/large coalition in Maine. Bellows looks like she is doing a pretty good job of assembling that coalition.

  •  Bellows has gotten some national attention (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomNonviolence, commonmass

    including endorsements from the PCCC,DFA., NORML, NOW PAC and other progressive groups.

    The DSCC is not paying most attention, but that's not exactly a surprise.

    Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

    by Illegitimi non carborundum on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 11:36:37 AM PDT

  •  every race is "winnable" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RandomNonviolence, commonmass

    ...until it's not.

    At this point in time, it seems to me that this, like virtually all races this November is "winnable" given the right set of circumstances.

    Bellows has some great assets, not the least being that she's a true progressive who stands on principal. If she can get those Democrats who tend not to vote during non-presidential years to be excited enough to get out and vote, that can be a major asset.

    On the other hand, the question that lingers in my mind about her is whether she has appeal to independents and even some Republicans. If she can start making inroads into the independent vote...she might have a good chance.

    •  Well, purely anecdotally- (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wdrath, RandomNonviolence, commonmass

      since there have been no polls since that first one right after Bellows entered the race-we do have some reason to be optimistic.

      A friend of mine is the lone liberal in a family of hard-core conservatives and libertarians. She told me today that her brother asked her for more info about Shenna, because "these guys he works with all say they're voting for her."

      There is considerable dissatisfaction with Collins among the libertarian-leaning U's and some R's in Maine. She's disappointed them on privacy issues, in particular, and more generally by her constant equivocation on every issue. Bellows has shown conviction by standing up the administration over the NSA overreaches. She's been a regular guest on right-wing talk radio since her tenure at the ACLU of Maine. She's liked and respected by the hosts of those shows, and many of the listeners, for being an articulate defender of civil liberties.

      For U's who are more left-leaning, her stances on raising the minimum wage, health care, women's rights, and other issues should resonate.

      Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

      by Illegitimi non carborundum on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 12:05:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I spoke too soon! (3+ / 0-)

    Via the Bellows for Senate campaign, Shenna has just been endorsed by the DSCC!

    Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

    by Illegitimi non carborundum on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 01:39:52 PM PDT

  •  I'm sure Susan Collins wants us to think she's... (4+ / 0-)

    invincible.  

    It's a self-fulfilling prophecy: I'll win because people say I'll win.

    Mainers are smarter than that. Bellows is a great candidate. And yes, she's got a challenge ahead, but it can be overcome with grassroots support, visibility, and turnout.

    Maine has regularly elected progressive, independent minded people---including Senators Ed Muskie, and George Mitchell, and more recently Angus King, and Rep. Chellie Pingree.

    Yes. Bellows can win. Just don't tell Susan Collins.

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 04:18:36 PM PDT

  •  More reasons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slakn1

    Maine has 1.3 million people, which makes it a little simpler to campaign in than say, California.  Of course, this is Collins strength too.

    Several people here already discussed calling out Collins on her far right record.

    The best example of taking out an entrenched incumbent, was, in Delaware, in the 2000 election.  GOP Senator Roth was a 30 year incumbent, and was seen as being invincible.  He championed the Roth IRA's, named after himself.  
    He was not a far-right winger.  He was even Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and voted the the Brady Bill, the assault weapons ban.

    The reason I mention former Senator Roth is that his opponent, then Gov. Carper, campaigned on Senator Roth having been around too long, he was old and out of touch.  Sen. Collins has also been around a long time and gets away with a lot.  

    I would love to see Shenna Bellows debate Collins, in at least 4 debates.  I have seen Sen. Collins on talk shows, press interviews etc., and she seems very far removed from the real world.  She comes across as an old school marm from a century ago.  Bellows needs to be the new exciting Senator, and campaign against the old stodgy and out of touch right winger who has never written and passed any significant legislation of her own.

    Collins can certainly point to a long Senate career of voting on principle, but, at the end of the day, she is another vote to make Mitch McConnell the majority leader, and she is another vote standing in the way of President Obama just getting up and down votes on the many appointees he has to make to keep the government running.

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