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Susan Collins becomes top 2020 target for Dems

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By Jordain Carney, The Hill

Sen. Susan Collins is now a top target for Democrats in 2020.

The Maine Republican shot up the list over the weekend after providing her GOP colleagues the crucial 50th vote needed to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In an increasingly partisan chamber, Collins has consistently been ranked as one of the Senate's most moderate members. But her decision to support Kavanaugh outraged a coalition of progressives, activists and even some supporters who spent months urging her to vote against President Trump's nominee.

Democrats are pledging to unseat her if she runs for reelection in 2020, comparing an almost hour-long floor speech that earned praise from fellow GOP senators to a "slap in the face."

Heidi Hess, co-director of Credo Action, said the 2020 election will be "tough" for Collins, predicting the anger over Kavanaugh wouldn't be erased by the time she is on the ballot.

"She made a floor speech saying she believes survivors and saying she was going to vote against the ones who ... came forward against Brett Kavanaugh, and that's not something people are going to forget," Hess said.

She added that the "chances are good that by the time 2020 comes around, Kavanaugh will have taken a vote against Roe," meaning Collins will be "exposed as ... a liar and so politically unsavvy that she believed him in the first place."

Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of Indivisible, added that Collins would be one of the group's targets in 2020 and that Collins had "gravely damaged her reputation in Maine."

"Many of our own groups in Maine ... were deeply insulted by that speech," Greenberg said, comparing it to a "slap in the face."

The two organizations are part of a coalition of outside groups that is pledging to try to unseat Collins.

A fundraising effort by Maine People's Alliance and Mainers for Accountable Leadership briefly crashed the Crowdpac website and has raised more than $3.6 million for a potential Democratic opponent against Collins. The groups increased their fundraising goal to $4 million, and Republicans have characterized the effort as a "bribe."

Protect Our Care, a pro-Affordable Care Act group, released a TV ad this week in Maine that shows the Supreme Court - "sometime in 2019 or 2020" - striking down ObamaCare, with Kavanaugh as the deciding vote.

Leslie Dach, chairwoman of Protect Our Care, said Kavanaugh's nomination was a "true test" for Collins, one that she failed.

"Mainers will remember where she stood when the court rules to rip health care away from us," Dach said.

Democracy for America, a progressive group that mounted a campaign against Collins in 2014, said they were committed "to working with anyone we can to finish the job in 2020. Mainers deserve better."

Collins, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, won her 2008 reelection bid by more than 22 percentage points. That margin widened to 37 percentage points in 2014.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won Maine by 2.9 points in 2016, a considerably narrower margin than the 15 point victory for then-President Obama over GOP nominee Mitt Romney four years earlier.

Collins was at the center of the months-long Kavanaugh fight, with protesters flooding the hallways outside her Capitol Hill office and staff receiving "vulgar" phone calls and mail. In the final days of the battle, Collins was frequently spotted with a police escort around the Capitol grounds.

While she has never voted against a Supreme Court nominee, Collins was considered a swing vote because of her willingness to buck the GOP at times on votes for Cabinet-level nominations and on ObamaCare repeal and abortion legislation.

Roughly 24 hours before Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, Collins said from the Senate floor that she believed Christine Blasey Ford was sexually assaulted but that the FBI report did not corroborate her allegation that Kavanaugh was the assailant.

She warned that if the Senate rejected Kavanaugh's nomination it would be "hugely damaging to this confirmation process."

She also disputed several policy issues activists used in their attempt to sway her vote, such as arguing that Kavanaugh will be the fifth vote for weakening or overturning Roe v. Wade.

Polls from a left-leaning firm have found that Collins's vote for Kavanaugh could cost her if she runs for reelection in 2020.

Public Policy Polling released an Oct. 1-2 survey showing that Collins's 8 point advantage over a generic Democratic opponent was erased if she voted for Kavanaugh. An August survey by the same group found that 47 percent of Maine voters would be less likely to vote for her if she supported Kavanaugh. That poll was conducted before Kavanaugh's accusers went public in September with their allegations.

Collins's speech earned her praise from Trump and GOP colleagues. The president called her "incredible," adding that "she gave an impassioned, beautiful speech."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a close ally of Trump, defended Collins in a tweet aimed at Democrats, saying: "Take a shot at the title. We'll see how it works out for you."

And Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), asked about the crowdfunding efforts against Collins, told Fox News that she would be "well funded."

"She's my top priority, too," McConnell separately told reporters after the Kavanaugh vote, when asked about Democrats making Collins a "top priority" in 2020.

Collins hasn't announced whether she will run again, and no Democrat has announced their candidacy.

But Sara Gideon (D), the speaker of Maine's House of Representative,hinted in a Facebook post that she would consider challenging Collins.

"Maine deserves a champion in the US Senate. ...After November I will be seriously considering how I can elevate the voices of people who deserve and demand to be heard and represented in Washington, DC," she wrote.

And a tweet by Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser during his second term, sparked speculation that she could be interested in challenging Collins as well.

When a former Obama administration staffer asked on Twitter who wanted to run, Rice responded with: "Me."

Rice, speaking at the New Yorker Festival on Sunday, said she was "disappointed" in Collins's vote and "moved by the enthusiasm" she received in response to her tweet.

"I'm going to give it due consideration after the midterms," Rice said. "My ties to Maine are long and deep."

Collins has dismissed the potential political consequences of her vote, telling CNN that she did "what I think is right."

"As far as Susan Rice is concerned ... she doesn't live in the state of Maine," she said. "Everybody knows that."

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Politics - U.S. Daily News: Susan Collins becomes top 2020 target for Dems
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