Now that Sen. Susan Collins has announced she will not run for Maine governor, one thing is certain.
And that’s that the Maine Republican Party still faces the choice between being the party of Susan Collins and Bill Cohen or the party of Paul LePage and Donald Trump.
(Collins worked for Cohen as a legislative staffer and LePage endorsed Trump.)
When it comes to Rep. Poliquin, he’s essentially in the latter camp of LePage and Trump, but less overtly when it comes to rhetoric and willingness to stand up for ideas in public. He avoids stating his positions while embracing big financial institutions and trashing Collins in a closed door fundraiser.
In any case, the Collins vs LePage factional divide will continue play out in the GOP primary for governor, as a lot more Republicans jump in, including some center-right figures.
Meanwhile, Collins will occupy a critical role in the U.S. Senate at least until the 2018 elections push the chamber’s party composition toward Democrats or Republicans.
Collins has been very important in health policy debates lately.
Although she engages in false equivalence between the process involved with Obamacare, which involved over a hundred hearings and included bipartisan input (including from Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe), versus the complete lack of regular order with Obamacare replacements, Collins recognizes the real harm from all the proposed GOP plans. Collins listened when Maine people organized and spoke out against the various Trumpcare bills.
Moreover, Collins works hard, has not had a hint of corruption, and learns about issues. She understands how to craft legislation and use the processes of the Senate, but the GOP leadership is increasingly uninterested in employing them. Just look at what they did in blocking Obama’s Supreme Court pick.
As she remains in the increasingly dysfunctional Senate as the member of a party that chose a presidential nominee who knows nothing about policy and process and doesn’t seem to want to learn, Collins will stand out.
The Senate was long called the world’s greatest deliberative body. Whether one likes what she decides or not, Collins deliberates.
Sen. Collins can and likely will continue to speak out against Trump’s sabotage of the health care system and for bipartisan health policy steps.
Meanwhile, Maine Republicans will battle over which path they pursue – the policy know-nothingism and extremism of LePage and Trump or the measured, pragmatic center-right conservatism of Collins, Snowe and Cohen.