WASHINGTON – Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is trailing her Democratic opponent in the closely watched Senate race by more than 10 points, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
A new Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters surveyed in Maine found the incumbent trailing her opponent Sara Gideon, the state’s House speaker, by 12 percentage points.
Collins is one of the last moderate Republicans from New England remaining in Congress. She has been critical of President Donald Trump – whose approval rating in the state is below the national average, according to the polls – on a number of issues.
But her detractors say that despite her often verbal expressions of disapproval (the phrase “Susan Collins is concerned” has become something of a social media punchline) she has ended up voting with Trump on the most important issues, such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the impeachment trial.
“The tide has turned on Senator Susan Collins, who was so popular in Maine that she won nearly 70 percent of the vote the last time she ran. Likely voters are sending the message that there’s no ‘middle of the road’ when it comes to President Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the state,” said Mary Snow, a Quinnipiac University polling analyst.
Collins is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbent senators heading into November, and her seat is one of the Democrats’ top priorities to flip as the party tries to gain control of Congress’ upper chamber.
Gideon’s lead in this poll is her largest yet. Her average lead, according to Real Clear Politics, is 6.5 percentage points. An August survey from Quinnipiac showed Gideon leading among all registered voters, 47% to 43%.
Eighty-nine percent of likely voters say their minds are made up about whom they are supporting in the contentious race, while 10% say they could change their minds before Election Day.
Gideon’s lead in this poll is amplified by not only large margins among Democratic-leaning groups — 20 points with women and 18 points with younger voters — but she is also leading with some groups who have previously skewed Republican.
She has a 4 point lead among men, a 3-point advantage among voters without a college degree, and is leading Collins by 18 points among seniors. Gideon is also leading among independents, 59% to 36%.
The poll also conducted surveys in two other Senate races that have garnered national attention: The re-election bids of Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, is tied 48%-48% with Jamie Harrison, the first African American chairman of South Carolina’s Democratic party.
Ninety-three percent of likely voters who have already backed a candidate said their minds are made up, and 49% of those polled say they have a unfavorable opinion of the incumbent senator, while 44% view him favorably.
“A victor by almost 16 points back in 2014, Senator Graham stares down the first real test of his Senate tenure,” said Quinnipiac analyst Tim Malloy. “Outspent and accused by some of being a Trump apologist, he is in a precarious tie.”
Democrats must flip a net of three or four seats to take control of the Senate, depending on whether Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden takes the White House.
“Senate control hangs in the balance as the GOP confronts a likely nail biter in South Carolina and a possible knockout in Maine, offset by a presumably solid lead in Kentucky,” Malloy said.
Harrison tweeted that you “don’t have to believe in miracles to believe we can win this race. Once again, we are ALL TIED UP IN SOUTH CAROLINA.”
When asked about the poll by reporters on Capitol Hill, Graham said his team is “taking it seriously” but thinks the poll is “very flawed.”
The survey also showed Senate Majority Leader McConnell besting his Democratic opponent Amy McGrath by 12 percentage points.
The Quinnipiac University poll survey was conducted Sept. 10-14. 1,183 likely voters in Maine were surveyed, with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points; 969 likely voters in South Carolina were surveyed, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points; 1,164 likely voters in Kentucky were surveyed, with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.
Contributing: William Cummings, Philip M. Bailey