Friday, October 31, 2008

Photo of the Day

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Collins: Partisanship Biggest Issue

Sen. Collins has said similar things before, but I don't remember her ever stating it this plainly:

I believe the biggest issue facing our country right now is an excessive partisanship.
So much for the economy, so much for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If partisanship is the problem, how does standing by corrupt, convicted felons in your own party help solve it?


I don't think the word means what Jerry Harkavy thinks it means.

His piece also makes it sound like Rep. Allen has been talking mostly about Iraq lately--which just isn't true.

And Harkavy has to reach back to 2005--and a relatively minor process-related kerfuffle--to establish Sen. Collins' bipartisan credentials.

Other than that, the article is great.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

PPH Gets Punk'd?

What does Portland Press Herald think of Sen. Collins' stance on corrupt, convicted felons serving in the Senate?

Remember, PPH endorsed Susan Collins not on the strength of her positions on the big issues, but instead (at least purportedly) because she's a moderate bipartisan centrist.

And yet Collins' decision to stand by a man guilty of seven felonies--stemming from public corruption and the abuse of official power--is nakedly partisan. It's about as transparent a betrayal of good government principles as you can imagine.

An honest newspaper would be sure to call out and criticize such a transparent act of cynical, partisan politics. Especially on the eve of an election.

Which is why there's a good chance PPH's editorial page won't even mention it.


The PAC of the Associated General Contractors of America is running web ads--they've even been popping up on the right-hand margin here--singing the praises of Sen. Collins.

The organization's apparent top priority: Repeal of the estate tax.

At least they're upfront about it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


PPH's article about Sen. Collins and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has an interesting comments section.

It's safe to say that the junior senator's response to the conviction has not been a big hit with the locals.

Dems: Felons Shouldn't Serve

From the Maine Dems:

If Susan Collins really believes that convicted felons have a place in the Senate, she clearly does not represent the kind of change that people in Maine are hungry for.

Stevens One More Time

It's worth stating again, as baldly as possible:

Sen. Collins thinks it's okay for a lawmaker convicted of felonies to continue serving in the United States Senate.

Even when the felonies committed involve public corruption and the abuse of official power.

It's hard to get into the mindset of someone whose moral compass leads her to such a bewildering conclusion. And it raises real questions about where Susan Collins draws her ethical bright lines.

But in any case, Collins' support for Stevens makes it clear as day that the junior senator is no reformer. She's not a truth teller or an independent thinker.

She's a partisan Republican willing to do ethical somersaults to preserve Republican power.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Collins Partisanship Primer

Sure, Sen. Collins votes with President Bush pretty much whenever it counts. But as everyone knows, she's just not a partisan person.

Except that:

--Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) thinks she's a quintessential GOP team player.

--She considers Karl Rove an old friend.

--She called Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) a "great choice" for Vice President.

--She remains state co-chair for a Republican presidential campaign she concedes is engaged in deplorable tactics.

--She gave Sen. Ted Stevens $5,000 at a time when his indictment seemed inevitable.

--Even though Stevens has been convicted of a felony, she's refusing to call for him to step down.

--She mocked a former Democratic colleague about sensitive, private issues on live radio.

--She says she'd welcome fundraising help from President Bush.

--She's was the most popular recipient of financial support from her GOP colleagues through most of the year.

--Her PAC never gives money to Democrats.

--She socializes with anti-gay reactionary Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

What am I missing?

Thought of the Day

It's one thing to be a team player. It's another thing to kick the ref in the shins.

Collins: Felons Can Serve

It's been 27 years since a senator was convicted of a felony. And it took the threat of expulsion for him to resign.

Make no mistake: It may take similar pressure to bounce Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) out of the Senate.

For Sen. Snowe, it seems to be a no-brainer:

"The public trust above all else must be upheld, and therefore I believe that stepping down would be the right thing to do."
Sounds awfully straightforward to me.

But Sen. Collins won't call for him to resign. She apparently has no problem with a convicted felon continuing to serve in the upper chamber of the nation's legislature.

Did she send her ethical radar to Stevens, along with the $10,000?

Collins Stands Alone?

A list of Senate Republicans who have publicly called on Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) to step down:

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) [link]

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) [link]

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) [link]

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [link]

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) [link]

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) [link]

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) [link]

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) [link]

There are probably more, but this is what we've been able to find so far. We'll add more names as they become available.

What's She Thinking?

Sen. Collins clearly believes it's acceptable for seven-time felons--convicted of public corruption--to continue serving in the Senate. That in itself is a shocker.

But look at the fact pattern here:

--Collins contributes $5,000 to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) as an FBI investigation into his actions gathers steam.

--Collins doubles down with another $5,000 investment in Stevens a month before his indictment, at a time when the seriousness of the case against him is undeniable. (She's one of only three incumbents fighting for reelection to contribute to him during that period.)

--Stevens is convicted of seven felonies. As her colleagues line up to call on him to step down, Collins balks.

What on earth is going on here?

Collins Stands With Stevens

In an inexplicable move that puts her at odd with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), Sen. Snowe and other prominent Republicans, Sen. Collins is refusing to call for the resignation of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who was convicted of seven felonies earlier this week:

"The people of Alaska will have an opportunity to express their view in just six days," Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said in an e-mail.
The conviction arose, you'll remember, from a a federal public corruption probe.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gang of Nine

Sen. Collins was one of nine Republican senators to funnel money to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) through a leadership PAC in the weeks leading up to Stevens' indictment, an analysis of campaign finance data at shows.

Stevens recorded contributions from nine fellow senators on or after June 11, 2008. He was indicted on July 29.

UPDATE: Some more numbers:

--By our count, Stevens has received 50 disclosed contributions from the leadership PACs of 30 GOP Senate colleagues, including two from Susan Collins. (That number does not include contributions made to him by his own PAC.)

--17 colleagues, including Collins, gave him the maximum allowed contribution of $10,000.

--Among candidates in contested Senate races, only three gave to Stevens in 2008, at a time when the seriousness of the case against him was undeniable: Collins, Sen John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH).

--For 18 GOP senators, including Sen. Snowe, we can find no evidence of a contribution to Stevens this cycle.

PFAW On The Air

People For the American Way has a new ad and its coming soon to a TV screen near you:

As far as I know, this is the first TV ad all cycle hitting Sen. Collins on judicial nominees.

Collins, Stevens and Jefferson

We're still digging into the details and context of Sen. Collins' peculiarly-timed $5,000 donation to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) earlier this year.

But for comparison, it's worth noting that disgraced Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) appears to have received just three contributions over $2,300 from colleagues during the 2007-8 campaign cycle. And even if you combine them, they don't add up to the $10,000 Collins has funneled to Stevens since last June.

(To be clear: I haven't been able to determine whether the contributions were made to Jefferson before or after his June 8, 2007 indictment.)

Did other GOP colleagues give to Stevens even after evidence of his wrongdoing had become impossible to ignore? Were they as generous as Susan Collins was?

Question of the Day

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has been convicted of seven felonies. But he continues to maintain that he's innocent.

Is Sen. Collins ready to say that he's guilty?

Bipartisan It Ain't

Sen. Collins' June donation to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) underscores just how loyal a Republican the junior senator has been--even at her own ethical peril.

But look at the full list of contributions made by her PAC this cycle:

McCain, John (R) $2,500
Alexander, Lamar (R-TN) $5,000
Barrasso, John A (R-WY) $5,000
Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA) $10,000
Coleman, Norm (R-MN) $10,000
Corker, Bob (R-TN) $5,000
Cornyn, John (R-TX) $5,000
Dole, Elizabeth (R-NC) $10,000
Domenici, Pete V (R-NM) $5,000
Enzi, Mike (R-WY) $5,000
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC) $10,000
Inhofe, James M (R-OK) $10,000
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $5,000
Roberts, Pat (R-KS) $10,000
Schaffer, Bob (R-CO) $5,000
Sessions, Jeff (R-AL) $7,500
Smith, Gordon H (R-OR) $10,000
Stevens, Ted (R-AK) $10,000
Sununu, John E (R-NH) $10,000
Talent, James M (R-MO) ($1,000)
Biggert, Judy (R-IL) $2,000
Summers, Charles E (R-ME)$5,000
Whitman, Kate (R-NJ) $2,000
Maybe you notice a pattern?

In fact, a quick scan of Collins' entire contribution history reveals not a single contribution to a Democrat .

Which is fine. But it demonstrates, once again, that Susan Collins has been a solid, partisan Republican.

Unlike Sen. Snowe--and even John McCain--she's a reliable GOP team player.

Doubling Down On Stevens

Sen. Collins' willingness, as recently as June, to help bankroll Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) reelection campaign raises important questions.

But first, we need a little context.

In June 2007, when Collins funneled her first $5,000 to Alaska's senior senator, the move was defensible if sketchy: The federal probe of Stevens appeared to be gathering steam. But information about the case had only recently started to trickle out, and many facts still weren't known.

It seemed at least possible, at that point, that he was a peripheral player.

But by June 2008, the investigation was pretty much an open book: By then, we knew that Stevens was being probed by both the FBI and the IRS; that his home had been searched by federal agents; that a Washington grand jury had been looking into his actions for more than a year; and that the key witness against him had publicly admitted to paying for work on Stevens' house.

In short, by June 2008 it was clear that Stevens was in the cross-hairs of a serious multi-agency federal corruption investigation, that the case against him was being pursued vigorously and that the central allegation had been corroborated by a key participant.

Why a lawmaker--let alone one who presents herself as above the fray--would look at this set of facts and respond by doubling her investment in Stevens' candidacy is hard to fathom.

It's the Republican equivalent of sending five grand to Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) after the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer.

So back to the questions:

1. Why Stevens? Why $5,000? What was the contribution meant to accomplish?

2. Why didn't Collins disclose the donation when her financial ties to Stevens were receiving scrutiny back in July--a little more than a month after the donation had been made?

3. Has Collins asked Stevens to return the funds?

4. Has Collins donated to Stevens' legal defense fund, which isn't required to disclose donors until January?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Collins Gave Stevens $5K In June

As we just noted, it's long been common knowledge (if under-reported in the Maine press) that Sen. Collins gave $5000, via her political action committee, to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) in June 2007, just as the federal corruption inquiry of Stevens gathered steam.

But we've learned that Collins gave Stevens another $5000 just over four months ago--on June 11.

That donation was disclosed in a campaign finance report subsequent to Stevens' July 29, 2008 indictment. And that probably explains why it's gone unnoticed to this point.

But it's a troubling--and puzzling--transaction that raises fresh questions. We hope to have more on this soon.


Remember, Sen. Collins (via her Dirigo PAC) dropped a big contribution on Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) after the Feds had started investigating his shenanigans last year.

(For some context, check out this article, which ran the day before Collins' $5000 donation to Stevens.)

As far as I'm aware and as best as I can recall, this donation has never been discussed or even referenced by any Maine news outlet.

Now, the point isn't that Sen. Collins is a crook or a friend to criminals.

The point is that the junior senator has been such a consummate Republican team player that she was willing to funnel reelection money even to a GOP colleague under federal investigation.

It shows just how important she thinks it is for Republicans to stay in power. And how serious she's been about making it happen.

UPDATE: Back in July,, to its credit, did raise the issue of Collins' donation Stevens.

Quote of the Day

From today's edition of The Maine Campus, the student newspaper at the Orono campus of the University of Maine:

We first tried to contact Collins for an interview on Sept. 15. The Collins campaign was elusive and unresponsive, running us through the gauntlet and only once returned our daily or twice daily phone calls. When they finally did respond, they informed us that the senator wouldn't be available for an interview, then later said that maybe we could get an interview but never got back to us.

The University of Maine represents a large community of voters in the 2nd Congressional District. It is in the interest of any candidate running for office to speak to all media outlets and to make their positions known.

While it is understandable that the Sen. Collins is a busy person, it is unfortunate that the woman who bills herself as "our senator" cannot take 20 minutes out of her schedule to directly address the students of the flagship school of the University of Maine System.

How To Swing An Election

Step 1: Offer sporadic coverage that focuses on personality and labels. Don't profile the candidates. Don't explore their records and positions at any length or in any depth.

Step 2: Endorse the candidate whose views line up less well with voters. Do this without citing her record or positions on the major issues of the day.

Step 3: In your news pages, marvel at how your candidate has managed to avoid the kind of voter scrutiny--and disapproval--on national issues that is hurting other members of her party.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Photo of the Day

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Question of the Day

What would Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have to do for Sen. Collins to resign her position with his presidential campaign?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Photo of the Day

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Breaking With McCain

It's really not that hard.

If Sen. Collins can't bring herself to sever ties with the most polarizing presidential campaign in 30 years while she's up for reelection, what hope is there that she'll take sides against GOP thugs once she's won a fresh term in office?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Here a Crook, There A Crook

I don't mean to pick on Kevin Wack. He's done some very solid reporting on the Allen-Collins race.

But I think his assumption here--that Sen. Collins will unload the campaign contribution she's received from the guy who runs Sen. John McCain's robocall firm--is misplaced.

Remember, it took till July, and an indictment, for Collins to dump a contribution from Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). Even though he'd been under investigation for more than a year.

In fact, just as that investigation gathered steam, she sent him a big chunk of change.

What's more, as far as I know, she hasn't given back this $1,000 contribution from this guy. (More on Petters here.)

The lesson seems to be that the junior senator unloads contributions from supporters when they come under indictment. Sometimes.


The Maine Race is surprised that groups like Pharma and the Chamber of Commerce are on the air supporting Sen. Collins on the issue of health care.

But it makes perfect sense: These groups fervently oppose the kind of comprehensive reform that would have the effect of reining in drug costs and insurance industry profits.

And Susan Collins, if elected, is certain to be on the side of those working to frustrate and weaken any universal health care plan that gets taken up in 2009.

The Maine press refuses to talk about it. And so most Mainers don't fully grasp it. But it really is that simple.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Trifecta

First of all: Wow.

A debate run by grown-ups? Journalists who ask informed questions? What a novelty.

Also impressive that within sixty minutes, Sen. Collins found time to associate herself with President Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK).

Will Vice President Cheney's feelings be hurt?

More seriously: It's remarkable to see how the dynamic between the two candidates shifts when they face serious, probing questions. And when the format is designed to extract information about their positions and records.

It's as if Collins and Rep. Allen took a one-hour vacation from the lethargic, center-right Maine media landscape they've spent the last year mired inside.

Friends In High Places

The McCain camp's tactics get uglier and more polarizing by the day--in Maine and elsewhere. But for a number of reasons, it's still hard to see Sen. Collins cutting her ties to what may be the most divisive presidential campaign in 30 years.

Yet another reason: Her campaign is being funded by the same people.

Collins Flashback: We Need McCain

Notice the Rev. Wright dig right at the top. It's not the only shot Sen. Collins takes at Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

She also accuses Democrats of, "reaping only division."

Watching the speech, you get the sense that there's a feisty GOP attack dog somewhere inside the junior senator just waiting to break loose.

It really is worth watching the whole thing.

New Poll: Collins +12 (?)

According to WMTW:

A new [Critical Insights] poll indicates Republican Sen. Susan Collins has a 12-point lead over Democratic Rep. Tom Allen in her re-election bid.
The margin of error is five percent, which puts it on the high side.

Not clear if those numbers refer to likely voters or registered voters--previous polls from Critical Insights have broken out numbers for both.

We'll see what we can find out.

UPDATE: We're hearing that this survey suffers from some of the same shortcomings that marred the last Critical Insights poll.

Specifically, we're hearing that it overweights Democrats, underweights independents, overweights older voters and dramatically underweights young voters.

All in all, it doesn't inspire much confidence.

Still, the Critical Insights numbers have been toward the middle of the pack all race long. And it's notable that if you throw out the Pan Atlantic number--as we're inclined to--the last four polls in this race show margins of +10, +13, +11 and +12 in Collins' favor.

Taken together, that seems like pretty strong evidence that Collins is leading outside the margin of error. It suggests that it will take extremely strong Democratic turnout, presidential race coattails and further narrowing for Allen to close the gap.

But in such a volatile, Democrat-friendly electoral climate, that remains a live possibility. (Which is why the Collins camp continues to pump out the distortions.)

Quote of the Day

McCain New England campaign manager Jim Barnett, yesterday on the WVOM morning show:

[Sen.] Collins has been an outstanding supporter of Senator McCain. And on the big issues, they are very much in collaboration and they're very much similar types of Republicans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Accountability Moment

Elections are about the future. Or so the adage goes.

But elections are also referendums on the performance of the incumbent. They're opportunities to hold officials accountable for their actions.

And Sen. Collins' has a lot to account for.

Because the contract Susan Collins has always had with Maine--the deal she struck with voters in 1996 and 2002--was that she would be an independent voice and a centrist. She presented herself as a problem-solver with little regard for party loyalty or hard-right Republican ideology.

And she was elected twice on that basis.

So when President Bush took office in 2001, it was dispiriting when Collins broke with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and most Democrats to vote for the President's unaffordable 2001 tax cut package slanted toward the rich. And it was troubling when she supported the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq even as questions were being raised about the seriousness of the threat.

But on Election Day in 2002, those immoderate votes didn't yet form a pattern. Collins could still plausibly argue that she'd done her best to act as a free agent.

Yet as we moved into 2003 and 2004 and 2005--as the Iraq war went off the rails, the Katrina disaster unfolded, deficits piled up, our international standing plummeted and the Bush administration ceded itself more and more power--we desperately needed leadership from sensible, independent-thinking Republicans.

In that moment of crisis, it was crucial for patriots of all political stripes to demand competence from the Bush administration. To stand up to its abuses. And to insist that the government live within its means.

As crisis struck, the country needed Susan Collins.

And as events unfolded, many of us were convinced she'd do the right thing. Sure, we doubted the sincerity of some of her bipartisan rhetoric. Yes, we thought she leaned further to the right than she generally let on.

But we believed that Collins was a straight-shooter and her own women.

We grouped her with Sen. Snowe, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and a few others: Clear-headed Republicans who, when push came to shove, seemed more concerned with the public good than protecting their party's standard-bearer.

We took it for granted that she'd recognize the high stakes and stand up to the bullies in the GOP.

Because we thought of Susan Collins, at her core, as one of the good guys.

And so the fundamental choice Collins made during those dark days--to stand with President Bush rather than challenge him, to ratify his choices rather than oppose them--came as a shock.

As the country drifted toward illiberalism, geopolitical humiliation and financial ruin, we were simply stunned that Susan Collins' practical, non-ideological voice was nowhere to be found.

Instead, Collins seemed to double-down on her early support for the administration: She voted for two successive rounds of tax cuts for the rich, backed the administration down the line on Iraq and even refused entreaties from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to hold hearings about the administration's corrupt, costly and deadly Iraq contracting practices.

Meanwhile, she supported the President's nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, backed granting retroactive legal immunity to phone companies who spied on their customers and voted in favor of the President's unconstitutional plan to obliterate the 800 year old right of habeas corpus, a foundational principle of Western law.

The upshot of these actions was a poorer, weaker country with less respect for the rule of law and less respect from its allies.

The result was an America with debilitated legal safeguards and an out-of-control executive branch--a nation a couple of giant steps down the road to becoming something other than a democratic republic.

And make no mistake: These things happened precisely because people like Susan Collins faded into the background: They happened because so many of the "good guys" sat on their hands, choosing accommodation and self-interest over the bold leadership that the moment required.

The absence of moderating influences left that the Bush administration free to use polarization and fear to implement its reactionary agenda.

And even as that agenda careened out of control--with corruption alone costing tens of billions of dollars and, yes, American lives--Collins still refused to speak up. Instead, she enabled. Given the quintessential opportunity to play a centrist role, she opted instead to be part of the cover up.

In short, when her country needed her most, Collins sloughed off her moderate persona. She shelved it--under the theory, presumably, that she'd be able to reclaim it at some later point.

And that point has now arrived.

Look: It's true that Maine voters need to consider carefully where both candidates want to take America.

But it's also inescapably true that if Mainers send Susan Collins back for a third term after she's forfeited her moderate credentials and failed the test of the last eight years, they will be sending a message to future candidates that commitments don't matter--that branding trumps all.

Maine will be saying that fecklessness in the face of disaster is tolerable. And that helping to advance the most destructive policies in a generation is forgivable.

Finally, reelection would send the message to Susan Collins that she can get away with pretty much anything.

And with the country in deep trouble because of the mistakes of public officials, that's an awfully dangerous message to send.

Pan Atlantic: Collins +21

As expected, Pan Atlantic SMS produces a result that puts Collins ahead by a margin larger than anything we've seen in a while:

Rep. Tom Allen (D): 36 (31)

Sen. Susan Collins (R): 57 (56)

The numbers in parenthesis refer to Pan Atlantic results released in July. And that's actually the last time we saw a margin this large.

To put it in perspective: Except for a single Republican poll released in March, Pan Atlantic is the only pollster to put Collins up by 20 points even one time this year.

The company doesn't release its internals. But the poll also shows Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) doing better in CD-02 than CD-01. And I don't think anyone (including other pollsters) expect things to turn out that way. So make of that what you will.

Look: Pan Atlantic may be on the money. But if they are, it means just about everyone else has it wrong. Very wrong.

New Poll: Collins +11

Via Maine Politics, Survey USA is out with a new poll that has Sen. Collins up 11 points:

Tom Allen (D): 43 (39) (38)

Susan Collins (R-inc): 54 (55) (55)

Numbers in parenthesis represent results from a Survey USA poll conducted September 22-23.

UPDATE: The internals here make a lot more sense than the ones from SurveyUSA's last poll. Still, it's hard to get invested in results that feature a staggering 47 point swing among voters in the 18-34 demographic in less than a month.

That kind of thing pretty much demands an explanation.

In any event, evidence is clearly accumulating--from this poll, from the Research 2000 poll and from the early-October Rasmussen number--that Allen has closed the gap with Collins by something in the neighborhood of five points since September.

What we don't know is how big the gap was when the narrowing began.

As Maine Politics notes, one of the few places Allen leads is with Mainers who have already voted. That's probably to be expected, due to the Dems superior turnout operation.

But if I was in the Collins camp, it would scare the bejesus out of me just the same.

Finally, Mike tells us that Pan Atlantic SMS will have a poll out later today. Their last survey had some odd aspects. And it produced the biggest lead for Collins we've seen all year.

So it probably doesn't make sense to take those numbers too seriously.

Fibbing On The Sly

Now we know why Sen. Collins' campaign hasn't posted its latest TV ad to her campaign website: It's premised on distortions and misrepresentations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Photo of the Day

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)


There's has actually been some coverage this morning of Sen. Collins' sticky predicament regarding the McCain campaign's robocalls.

But there are nuances here--and unspoken assumptions--that need to be brought to the surface.

Namely: In most races, a candidate's refusal to break with a colleague engaged in deplorable tactics would be notable but not significant. It would be a blip on the radar. And the reporting so far has looked at Susan Collins' dilemma through that lens.

But here's the thing: Collins hasn't been running a normal campaign. Unlike just about every other candidate in the country, she's running not on an issue-based platform but instead on a vow to elevate the tone in Washington and put an end to the bitter partisanship that's been plaguing the city.

So the way she handles the McCain campaign's smears tests the fundamental premise of her campaign.

After all, if partisan rancor is really the central problem in our political system, how can Collins continue to support--and work on behalf of--a candidate who she concedes is working to make that problem worse? And who refuses to rein in the gutter tactics even after she's stressed to him how destructive they are?

If bitter partisanship is the chief obstacle to progress in Washington, isn't it incumbent on Collins to not just call out those who stubbornly cling to bitterness but to break with them?

In short, Collins' refusal, thus far, to cut McCain lose isn't just garden variety hypocrisy. (It's not, for example, the kind of hypocrisy evidenced by her decision to break her two-term pledge.)

This is hypocrisy that cuts to the core of her political identity and the case she's made for reelection.

And that makes it at least potentially explosive.

Which is why the Collins camp isn't returning phone calls.

McCain On WCSH: "I'm Proud"

In a local news interview, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had a chance to walk back his support for robocalls--and to help get Sen. Collins out of the box she's put herself in. But instead, he's standing firm:

Collins: Not Returning Calls

Sen. Collins, who has said that the McCain campaign's slimy tactics "have no place in Maine" apparently doesn't want to talk about her next step, now that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has swatted away her request that he stop the smears:

The Collins campaign did not return several phone calls seeking comment Monday.
Will the junior senator get away with this? Will the cowardly Maine media let her?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photo of the Day

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Question of the Day

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bernanke is now joining Democrats in calling for a new fiscal stimulus package.

I wonder: What percentage of Mainers understand that Sen. Collins' entire history suggests that, when the stimulus comes up for debate, the junior senator will be pushing to reduce the amount of money going to average Americans and to increase the share that goes to businesses and the wealthy?

Maine Spending In Context

The Maine Race has up a good post about DSCC spending in Maine, and how it compares to what the committee is doing in other states.

Interesting to know that the Democrats are spending as much money per capita in Maine ($.57) as they are Minnesota--but that there's eight times as much cash per capita flooding into New Hampshire.

Of course, as the post mentions, part of New Hampshire is in the (expensive) Boston media market.

The impression you get is that if the DSCC came to believe the Allen-Collins race was narrowing, it would be very easy for the folks in D.C. to step up the financial commitment.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain to Collins: Buzz Off

This morning on Fox News:

Here's the transcript:

WALLACE: The Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the co-chair of your campaign in Maine, has asked you to stop the robocalls. Will you do that?

McCAIN: Of course not.
It's instructive to watch Sen. McCain's expression as he dismisses Collins' suggestion out of hand. Clearly, he doesn't take it too seriously.

So we've now learned two things we didn't know when we woke up this morning:

1. Despite being state co-chair and "an original member of McCain's 2008 campaign kitchen cabinet," Collins apparently doesn't have enough juice with McCain to get him to clean up his act. Or even to keep his slimy tactics out of Maine.

2. Until we hear differently, the obvious upshot is that Collins is willing to support and work to re-elect a candidate who engages in tactics that, by her own admission, "have no place in Maine politics."

Remember this is a woman who thinks that the central problem with Washington is the rancorous tone.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript. You'll note that McCain never engages the substance of Collins' request. He swats it away, rejecting it as ludicrous, and then leaves it at that.

Closing Arguments?

Rep. Allen faces the camera and delivers what sounds like his closing argument: He links Sen. Collins to President Bush while embracing Democratic solutions on the economy and Iraq.

One gets the sense that Susan Collins and her allies have an ad or two in the can that they haven't yet released.

In these last 18 days, it will be interesting to see if the junior senator pivots, even slightly, from her issue-skirting, bipartisanship-trumps-all message to something a bit more substantive.

What If McCain Doesn't Listen?

The Nation weighs in:

Doesn't [Sen. Collins] need to speak up, forcefully and in detail about why the McCain campaign's tactics are wrong? Doesn't she need to take her party's nominee to task and say, as Margaret Chase Smith did more than half a century ago: "I don't want to see the Republican Party win that way."

And what if McCain does not listen to Collins? What if he and his campaign refuse to halt not just the robo calls but related smear tactics against Obama, who happens to be a colleague of the Maine senator?

If McCain refuses to right the course of his McCarthy-like campaign, shouldn't Collins quit as his campaign co-chair for Maine?

After all, if McCain won't take her counsel, doesn't that defeat the purpose of being a campaign co-chair?


If Collins fails to rise to this challenge, Maine voters face a challenge of their own: deciding whether to reelect a senator who talks a good game but does not link her words to actions.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Poll: Collins+13

From Research 2000:

Rep. Tom Allen (D): 40 (38) (34)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-inc): 53 (57) (56)

The poll, in the field from October 14-15, was commissioned by Daily Kos. (But Research 2000 is a non-partisan pollster.) The numbers in parenthesis refer to polls from the same firm conducted September 8-10, 2008 and October 15-17, 2007, respectively.

UPDATE: As much as I respect Kos' knowledge and judgment when it comes to elections, I don't share his inference that these results come close to sealing the deal for Collins. And I'm pretty confident they're not doing victory dances at Collins HQ. There are three reasons.

1. The previous Research 2000 poll gave Collins a 19 point lead--six points more than the Rasmussen result from the same time frame. It was the largest lead any survey had produced for Collins in months, even taking into account a Survey USA poll in which 18-34 year-old respondents tilted overwhelmingly (and unrealistically) toward Collins.

Now, maybe Research 2000 is dead-on. But their work could also be an outlier. And if that's true, the new poll's trend--a six point smaller advantage than last time for Collins--suggests that her lead may actually be in the high single digits.

Hence the recent Collins +10 results from Rasmussen and the eight point lead found by the Mellman Group.

All things being equal, I'm inclined to trust Research 2000 over the DSCC-sponsored poll from Mellman. But the fact that no one else duplicated the 19 point spread found in Research 2000's September poll raises real doubts.

2. When you dig into the data, you learn that Collins builds her lead by earning the support of 32% of Democrats and 48% of CD-01 voters.

Both of those numbers are plausible. But the 32% figure among Democrats is much higher than what we saw in either the most recent Rasmussen survey or the Collins-friendly result from SurveyUSA.

That Survey USA poll also showed a mere four point spread between the performance of the candidates in CD-01 and CD-02. The Research 2000 poll shows an 18 point spread.

Clearly, someone is wrong here. But it will take more polling to find out who.

3. The poll appears to assume equal turnout in both congressional districts.

I don't have the time to look into this now, but my sense is that, historically, CD-01 has generated higher turnout. And in this election in particular, my assumption has always been that many more voters will go to the polls in CD-01 than in CD-02.

Bottom line: No one who thought this race was up for grabs yesterday has reason to think the result is a foregone conclusion today.

In most years--in a less volatile political climate in which there were fewer question marks--even a narrowing outside-the-margin-of-error lead 19 days before an election would be enough to make an incumbent feel safe.

But this isn't most years.

Below The Radar

In addition to her false and misleading radio ad, Sen. Collins apparently has up two TV ads that she's neglected to post to her website.

Anyone want to fill us in on what she's trying to hide?

Rhetorical Distance

Sen. Collins' decision to bemoan the McCain campaign's ugly tactics is of a piece with her political strategy over the last eight years. It's vintage Susan Collins.

Consider: The stunt costs her nothing. It compromises nothing in the way of her conservative ideology. And it puts no new distance between her and the McCain agenda.

And yet (if the Maine media is dumb enough to swallow it) it allows her to frame herself as a moderate to middle-of-the-road voters.

But think about what it means.

Two years into a campaign from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) full of irresponsible statements and troubling proposals, the one issue Collins has chosen to separate herself from him on has to do with tactics.

Not McCain's economic policy. Not his Iraq policy. Not his plan to tax health insurance benefits. Collins doesn't seem to have much problem with the substance of McCain's plans for America.

She just wants him to give them a softer sales pitch.

Collins on McCain's Dirty Campaign

Here's Sen. Collins talking about the latest nonsense from the McCain campaign:

"This kind of campaign [robo]call does not reflect the kind of leader that [McCain] is."
The idea seems to be that the ugly tactics Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has resorted to are beneath him.

And yet he's resorted to them just the same.

Look: It's interesting (and convenient) for Collins to try to put some daylight between herself and the McCain campaign less than three weeks before Election Day--just as her own race seems to tighten.

But at what point does Sen. Collins conclude that McCain and Gov. Sarah "great choice" Palin (R-AK) are part of the problem rather than the solution?

I mean, if "partisan rancor" is the single biggest problem in Washington today, why does Susan Collins continue to work to elect a Republican ticket that's waged one of the most bitter, negative and resentment-filled campaigns in recent memory?

Friday, October 17, 2008

WGME Debate Highlights

You can watch the full debate here.

A couple of notable moments, aside from Collins' flip-flop on the Iraq surge:

At 8:27: Rep. Allen says, "[Collins] said that the President didn't manage the war well. But the truth is that Senator Collins didn't manage the war well either."

At 23:50: Allen's answer on taxes was about as cogent an argument for his position as anyone is likely to squeeze into a two-minute debate format.

Collins Flip-Flops on Surge

At this week's WGME debate, Sen. Collins called General Petraeus' surge strategy the "right strategy" for Iraq.

At 7:08:

Not sure I've heard that language before. And, of course, Collins nominally opposed the troop surge last year.

If you're not sufficiently confused yet, it's worth revisiting this video from a committee hearing on September 11, 2007 in which Collins questioned Petraeus:

It's not clear how much political progress Collins thinks Iraq has made over the last thirteen months. But the clear implication of her question is that she believed the absence of "significant political progress" by September 2008 would militate in favor of withdrawal.

And yet here we are in October and she still supports an indefinite occupation.

Who woulda thunk it?

WGME Debate

Maine Politics posts this news story on the WGME debate, which took place earlier this week:

We still haven't seen the full debate--still trying to track down video.

Where Is This Race?

Granted, my rolodex isn't exactly huge. But when I talk to smart people about this race, I'm struck by how little confidence they have about where it stands.

Don't get me wrong: Everyone thinks Sen. Collins is leading. Some think the margin is smaller and some think it's larger.

But the opinions of the careful observers I talk to aren't firm. And to a degree you wouldn't normally expect less than three weeks out, there's a reluctance to venture predictions.

There are two key reasons:

1. The financial crisis and looming recession: It shakes up the race and plays into Rep. Allen's narrative. But since a Wall Street meltdown just weeks before Election Day puts us in virtually uncharted territory, to what extent it boosts Allen is hard to predict.

2. Turnout: Everyone agrees that Republicans are dispirited about the campaign Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has run--and that they're dispirited in general.

And everyone believes that Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) ground game will be very strong--and that it's being supplemented effectively by the Maine Dems.

But will this lead to a once-in-a-generation turnout surge? Or just a modest increase? Will young voters and new voters come out in unprecedented numbers? Or is it mostly hype?

This is the real wild card in the Allen-Collins race. And I suspect it's a topic we won't have much insight into until the polls open.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Collins' Biggest Mistake?

Here's the clip:

LCV In Perspective

It's not clear what impact, if any, the national LCV's endorsement of Sen. Collins will have on the race given the thin case that was made for the move, and given that it's been rejected by organization officials on the ground in Maine.

But it needs to be said: The national organization's decision to back Sen. Collins represents a fundamental betrayal of its values and its members.

After all, members expect the League to support candidates with strong environmental profiles over those who've fallen short of the group's standards. That's the whole point of an endorsement.

So when the group's leadership does the reverse--backing the obviously weaker candidate--it draws the League's entire mission into question.

Also worth noting: This endorsement doesn't appear to be an attempt--as these things sometime are--to curry favor with a powerful lawmaker on the verge of re-election.

Remember, Susan Collins just isn't that powerful. And her re-election is far from assured: Given the current political landscape, which grows bleaker by the day for Republicans, there just hasn't been enough polling on the Maine race for anyone to know with confidence how things will turn out.

So this endorsement is almost certainly about something else: It looks very much like an attempt to reach out to Republican LCV donors, and to insulate the organization from criticism that it only backs Democrats.

(For the record, I'm still waiting for a return call from LCV's Washington D.C. office about its reasoning. I first contacted the organization for comment on the Senate race in Maine on May 9.)

Of course, LCV bills itself as a non-partisan organization. So it shouldn't be taking party affiliation into account in its endorsements. And the organization professes not to.

But it's hard to believe anything LCV says these days.

Collins vs. Collins

Sen. Collins has a surprisingly--stunningly--sane op-Ed in today's PPH about possible new regulations for Wall Street.

It's hard to make sense of the piece, but not because of anything it says. It's perplexing, instead, because the entire spirit and substance of its recommendation bear almost no resemblance to Collins' industry-friendly, GSE-scapegoating comments on the financial meltdown in the debates and in her campaign's statements.

So I really hope that the Susan Collins who wrote ("wrote"?) this op-Ed gets in touch with the Susan Collins we've been seeing on the campaign trail. She might learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Allen: Collins Better Fit For Big Oil

From the Allen campaign:

Since Mainers re-elected Susan Collins on a promise to protect our air, water and scenic resources, Collins has instead voted against the environment and with the Bush Administration often enough to make us wonder whether her promise to show up for every vote is a promise or a threat.

After being dinged by the group for voting TWICE for the Bush Administration’s coastal drilling plan, [S. 3711, Vote #218, 7/31/06; S. 3711, Vote #219, 8/1/06; CQ, 8/1/06], three years after voting for the Bush-Cheney Energy Bill, [HR 6, Vote #213, 7/29/05] and four years after voting to slash funding to track down and prosecute polluters, [Senate roll call vote 58, 3/12/2004], the only people endorsing Collins should be the oil companies. [SCR 23, Vote #97, 3/25/03]

And in a way, the oil companies have, contributing more than $140,000 to Collins’ campaign.

LCV Breaks With Itself?

From the LCV's endorsement press release:

The non-partisan LCV National Environmental Scorecard is a nationally accepted yardstick used to rate Members of Congress on conservation and clean energy issues.
Nationally accepted--except, apparently, by LCV itself.


In a surprising move, the national LCV has endorsed Sen. Collins over Rep. Allen.

When asked about his organization's decision to back a candidate with a 68% lifetime rating who voted for the Cheney energy bill (which LCV called one of the most anti-environment bills in recent years) over a candidate with a 93% rating who opposed the Cheney bill, LCV spokesman Joshua McNeil paused for a solid seven seconds before stating: "I'm not an expert on this race."

After another pause, he rattled off a series of talking points about Collins' work on environmental issues over the last two years.

Even when pressed, he declined to comment on the discrepancy between Collins' 68% lifetime LCV rating and Rep. Allen's 93% score, or about their contrasting votes on the Cheney energy bill.

UPDATE: After declining to discuss the endorsement at any level of detail and promising a call back, McNeil e-mails a press release that does not mention Collins' vote for the 2005 energy bill or the yawning 25% gap in the lifetime ratings of the two candidates.

UPDATE UPDATE: To be clear, I don't mean to suggest above that I was timing McNeil's response or that I know for a fact that he paused for exactly seven seconds. It could have been six seconds or eight seconds.

What I might have said, instead, was that McNeil took an extended, unusually-long pause--so long that I felt compelled to ask if he was still on the line.

Reminder Time

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Obvious Questions

Sen. Collins professes to believe that "hyper-partisanship" has been at the root of the government's failures over the last eight years.

Not a failed Republican ideology. Not mismanagement. Not corruption.


But if bipartisanship is as crucial as Sen. Collins makes it sound, why hasn't she stood together with Democrats and many Republicans against even one of the Bush administration's major initiatives?

And why did she stonewall her Democratic colleagues on the Homeland Security committee when they repeatedly reached across the aisle, imploring her to hold hearings on the Bush administration's corrupt, costly and dangerous Iraq war contracting practices?

Another Debate Thought

Sen. Collins continues to run on the strength of her (deceptive) moderate branding. And in yesterday's debate, she seemed to up the ante by citing "partisan rancor" as the key explanation for government's failures over the last eight years.

The implication, clearly, is that she's got what it takes to end the bickering.

This strikes me as a bizarre, tone-deaf re-election argument at a time when the nation is mired in two wars and the worst financial crisis in three generations.

But it's notable for another reason: The junior senator has no standing to make it.

First, consider: Collins has been talking about civility and comity for twelve years now. And Washington has become steadily more polarized over that period.

So clearly, her efforts thus far have been a total failure. What reason is there to think Collins will be more successful given another six years?

And second: When it comes to elevating the tone, Susan Collins has repeatedly been part of the problem.

Remember, this is a woman who took to the airwaves to allege that a former colleague had impregnated his mistress. And last year, she sponsored and circulated a hate video about her opponent.

In short, a paragon of civic virtue Susan Collins ain't.

Don't get me wrong: I understand why Collins doesn't want to talk about the issues. But she really should come up with a more plausible, compelling way to duck a discussion of them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Today's Debate

You can watch the whole thing here.

Collins' Biggest Mistake? Cuba

From today's debate: Collins says her biggest mistake in Congress was in 1997 or 1998. And it was on Cuba.

She really said that. I swear.

Collins Q3: $1 Million

From the AP:

The figures to be filed with the Federal Election Commission show [Sen Collins] raised $1 million in the period that ended Sept. 30 and that she has $3.3 million in cash in hand.
That's about twice as much cash on hand as Rep. Allen.

Allen Q3: $1.0 Million

From Rep. Allen's campaign:

Fundraising receipts for the quarter totaled almost $1 million for a total of more than $5.7 million for the cycle for the period ending Sept. 30. The quarter's total was $995,688.75.

Cash on hand for the third quarter report was almost $1.7 million at $1,669,835.

Almost half of the contributions for the quarter came from Maine contributors at $483,311. The average contribution was $178.95 and the most common was $50. On-line contributors accounted for 25 percent of the quarter's total.

Chairman Mao Would Be Proud

It's hard to know where to begin with this piece of propaganda masquerading as a news article.

Suffice it to say that it's a great fit for a newspaper that, in recent days, has proven itself not just indifferent but actually corrosive to Maine's democracy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Question of the Day

PPH is holding a debate tomorrow.

Since the paper's coverage has gone out of its way to avoid focusing on the substantive differences between the candidates--and Sen. Collins' record in particular--it will be interesting to see how the debate unfolds.

Will Collins be asked detailed questions about particular votes? Will she be forced to confront the specifics of her record? Or will it be yet another session dominated by generic, open-ended queries?

Lieberman Picks His Battles

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is now defending Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) from charges that he dropped the ball on Iraq oversight during his tenure as the top Republican on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But as far as I can tell, Lieberman has refrained from mounting a parallel defense of Sen. Collins' tenure as chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Of course, Lieberman was basically pleading with Collins to hold Iraq war contracting hearings all the way back in September 2003. And more than three years later--with the situation in Iraq having deteriorated and billions of dollars up in smoke--the junior senator had still taken no action.

So it would be hard for Lieberman to argue, credibly, that he approved of Collins' decision to sit on her hands.

But that hasn't exactly stopped him before.

Gov. Palin In Maine

This Thursday. (Via Turn Maine Blue.)

Will Sen. Collins--state co-chair of the McCain campaign--appear with her? One would expect so: Just a couple of weeks ago, Collins called Gov. Palin "a great choice."

Remember, this is a woman who presided over a town with a policy of billing rape victims for rape kits. A politician who, just three days ago, was found to have unlawfully abused her power as governor.

That Sarah Palin.

NRSC To The Rescue?

The Washington Post reports that the cash-strapped National Republican Senatorial Committee is plunking down $150,000 in support of Sen. Collins. TV ads are slated to begin running this week.

Given the NRSC's cash woes and the long list of seats that Senate Republicans are struggling to defend, this is a significant move--and one that speaks volumes. It's the first sign we've seen in a long time that the national GOP is jittery about Collins' prospects.

UPDATE: The Washington Post now says it was wrong:

The NRSC did buy time on Friday in the Portland, Maine media market, a move that when we learned of it, led us to conclude that the committee was set to go on television in support of Collins.

What we failed to realize (dumbly) is that the Portland, Maine media market also reaches into parts of New Hampshire where Sen. John Sununu (R) is fighting for his political life against former governor Jeanne Shaheen.

The time the NRSC bought in Portland then was for the New Hampshire race NOT the Maine race. It's a rookie mistake and one that we simply should not make.
Thought it was a bit of an odd move given that it would have reinforced Collins' connection to the Republican brand.

Separately, I wonder what impact, if any, seeing those New Hampshire ads has on Portland-area voters.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Candor and Self-Respect at PPH

It can't be stressed enough that PPH's endorsement of Sen. Collins represents a devastating abdication of professional responsibility.

But let me be clear: I'm not saying the endorsement is egregious and unprofessional because PPH chose to back a senator who has enabled just about all the Bush administration's illiberal, reactionary policies over the last eight years.

Rather, it's an abdication because it refuses to defend those policies. Or contextualize them. Or explain why they were less important than something else.

PPH simply ignores them. It's as if the editorial was written in a parallel universe where Susan Collins played no role in the Iraq war, the ballooning national debt or the country's steady drift away from the rule of law.

Simply put: By adopting the language of a Collins camp press release and shirking its journalistic duty to provide a frank and independent assessment of the race, the PPH editorial board showed that it has no self-respect.

And by refusing to talk to its readers candidly about its reasons for backing Susan Collins, the paper confirmed that it has no respect for them either.

Photo of the Week

(We've added a larger version of this snapshot to the Collins Watch Flickr pool.)

Propaganda Victory

Estate tax repeal supporter Susan Collins gets the nod from Portland Press Herald, owned by one of the richest families in the country.

Of course, the editorial doesn't mention the estate tax--it doesn't mention taxes at all. It also doesn't mention Collins' vote for the Iraq war. Or her vote for the unconstitutional Military Commissions Act. Or her record on the environment, abortion and judges.

It's designed, in other words, to distract rather than inform.

Because of this, the editorial is a betrayal of the paper's readers. It's a breathtakingly irresponsible piece of misdirection--and a disgrace to the cause of journalism. (Though the folks at Xinhua News Agency, would probably find much to admire.)

Jeannine Guttman should be ashamed and her colleagues at PPH should be embarrassed.

But they've had cause to be embarrassed by the paper's coverage of the Senate race for months now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Conservation Voters

Just a few days ago, Planned Parenthood stood up and told the truth to Mainers about Sen. Collins' record.

And yesterday's, a "who's who" of Maine environmentalists--led by Dan Amory, Board Chair of the Maine League of Conservation Voters (LCV)--endorsed Rep. Allen.

So what to make of the fact that LCV itself has yet to weigh in on the race?

Remember, Allen has a lifetime LCV rating of 93% compared to 68% for Collins.

And Collins voted for the Cheney energy bill that LCV called the "most anti-environment bill signed into law in recent memory."

Now, if I was in charge of choosing between two candidates for valedictorian, I'm pretty sure I'd go with the A student who passed the most important test of the year--not the D student who flunked it.

But maybe that's just me.

I spoke to the Maine LCV yesterday, and was told that the national LCV is in charge of endorsements in federal races--the local chapter has no say. (An odd way of doing things?)

So I've put in a call to the LCV headquarters in Washington to find out their thoughts on the Senate race in Maine. Still waiting for a return call.

Friday, October 10, 2008

PPH To Show Its Hand

We learn here that PPH will make its endorsement in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram.

Let me state the obvious: It would be stunning--shocking--if the paper did anything other than endorse Sen. Collins.

The kindest thing you can say about PPH's coverage of the Allen-Collins race is that it's been grudging. (I've said less kind things here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

And sure--the paper is in the middle of some serious turmoil.

But when a local weekly delivers more incisive, illuminating coverage of a race in a single article than a major newspaper has produced over an entire election cycle, it's pretty clear that something else is at work.

And that's before you even consider the editorial page's near-silence about Susan Collins' reactionary, illiberal votes over the last couple years, the paper's refusal to fact-check Collins' lies and distortions, and the absence of any genuinely progressive commentary about the race on its op-Ed page.

In short, it's pretty clear how this thing turns out.

(Photo by Willow Lawson.)

Can't Stop Fibbing?

Gerald tallies up a few more, um, exaggerations.

Meanwhile, as far as I know, Sen. Collins' radio ad--which contains a blatant, demonstrably false attack remains on the air.

Apparently, Collins knows the Maine press won't hold her accountable. So she just continues to make stuff up.

Question of the Day

Sen. Collins talks a lot about Rep. Allen's record of voting with the Democratic party pretty much all the time.

But then she goes ahead and parries Allen's criticism of her vote for the Cheney energy bill--which Allen opposed--by noting that prominent Democrats in the Senate supported it.

Anyone else see a contradiction here?

Is This So Hard?

The Portland Phoenix delivers a nuts and bolts rundown of the voting records of Sen. Collins and Rep. Allen on a whole spectrum of issues.

In most contexts, this kind of piece would be utterly unremarkable. But because the article is full of the kind of detail that's been so conspicuously absent from major outlet coverage of this race, it feels revelatory.

And given how little genuine scrutiny the records of the two candidates have received so far, it's a small but essential corrective. Or at least a step toward a corrective.

Putting together this kind of piece takes work. Still, if journalism is what you do for a living, it's not that hard. And for any news outlet that sees its mission as providing the public with an accurate picture of the world, running something along these lines soon--within the next week or so--is absolutely essential.

Will we see more coverage like this in the coming days? If the editors and producers in news rooms across the state have any respect for their profession, we will.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

More Radio Fibbing

Gerald has the details.

It's incredible that Sen. Collins continues to pay no price in the Maine media for these gross distortions.

But even more incredible is something else that's been missing in local coverage since the bailout package was first introduced.

Namely: Over the last two weeks, you'd never know from reading PPH and BDN (or listening to MPBN) that one of these candidates--Susan Collins--is closely aligned with the powerful industry associations in Washington that want fewer rules and mandates for business. And that Rep. Allen is vigorously opposed by those forces.

You'd never know that Collins routinely scores huge ratings from the pro-business lobbies while getting low scores from consumer groups.

Or that Rep. Allen's record is the reverse.

And you'd have no way of knowing which candidate's contributions are represented by this chart:

(It's Susan Collins.)

One would think that such basic facts--such essential pieces of background information--would at least come up in the coverage.

And yet they haven't.

Planned Parenthood: Oh Really?

Here's Chris Quint, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Via e-mail:

It has been our understanding all along that Sen. Collins wanted and was seeking our endorsement in this election cycle.

Regardless, it is unfortunate that Sen. Collins does not want the support from an organization that is the most trusted provider of reproductive health care in our state and country. Planned Parenthood is proud of our record of bi-partisan support over the years and proud of our support of Congressman Allen in this election.

Collins Didn't Want PP Endorsement?

That's the natural conclusion to draw from the Collins camp's fatuous response to Planned Parenthood's endorsement of Rep. Allen.

But what kind of pro-choice candidate wouldn't want the endorsement of the preeminent pro-choice organization in the country?

It suggests Collins is being dishonest--a habit of late--or she doesn't take reproductive freedom all that seriously.

For what it's worth, we think it's probably the latter. It would help explain why Collins has so often voted the preferences of anti-abortion groups in recent years.

Quote of the Day

Christian Potholm, in his 2003 book The Splendid Game:

"In the 1996 senatorial race...[BDN] again [intervened] on behalf of Collins on both its editorial page and in its reporting and analysis.

Cynics of all party affiliations could see a pattern in subsequent events. The managing editor of BDN, Mark Woodward, went on after the election to become communications director for Senator Collins--although he soon returned to the old job."

Supposedly Pro-Choice

The Portland Phoenix coins a term.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Light Posting Ahead

Probably not as much action as usual here during the day tomorrow. But we'll be back at it on Friday--and straight through till Election Day.

(If you'd like to contribute to our efforts, please click on the orange "Donate" button at right.)

The Tank Gets Bigger

Let's be blunt: Everyone paying attention knows that BDN is in the tank for Sen. Collins.

The paper has a long, sordid history of twisting its coverage to support Collins. It almost always gives the junior senator more prominent placement than Rep. Allen in its stories.

And its coverage works assiduously to collapse any distinction between Allen and Collins that works to her disadvantage.

It's an ugly reality and a threat to Maine's democracy. And it isn't much discussed publicly. But that makes it no less true.

In any event: It's bad enough to have one of the state's two largest papers working to manipulate its readers. Now Blethen--which owns both PPH and Kennebec Journal--is publishing BDN stories on the Senate race.

This is like CNN airing clips from Fox News or The Financial Times running wire reports from WorldNetDaily.

Of course, that assumes PPH is a journalistic organization in the mold of CNN and The Financial Times--that it's at least trying to get things right.

Regular readers know that we've had our doubts for some time.

Let's just say this latest move isn't exactly reassuring.

Question of the Day

According to SurveyUSA, pro-choice voters make up 60% of the total pool of "actual and likely voters" in Maine.

And the September SurveyUSA poll put Sen. Collins support among those pro-choice voters at 45%.

Anyone else think that number just took a big hit?

Peeling Back The Facade

In the minds of many voters, a politician's views on abortion function as a proxy for a whole range of social issues. And abortion can be a lens through which the rest of a candidate's views are evaluated.

Local and national media reinforce the practice: Reporters are always looking for ways to distill the national political debate down to a clash on one or two subjects. And almost inevitably, abortion becomes part of the shorthand.

Sen. Collins has always been keenly aware of this dynamic. And throughout her career, she's been deft at using her pro-choice branding as a shield against claims that she's just another right-wing Republican.

Up until now, reporters have largely accepted her narrative. (Consider this July report from ABC News, which stakes Collins' entire moderate image on a single vote she cast five years ago.)

But one reason Planned Parenthood's rejection is significant is that it raises serious questions about the story Collins has been telling about herself all these years.

Planned Parenthood's decision to endorse her opponent--and its suggestion that the stakes in this election are especially high--may not just put distance between ardently pro-choice voters and Collins. There's a chance it will prompt the entire range of moderate and independent voters to peel back Collins' moderate facade.

And if that facade does in fact get peeled back, independent voters aren't going to like what they see.