What do U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Angus King (I-ME) have in common? It is not a trick question. While the two don't often agree on policy and neither are likely to support each other in an election, there is probably only one incumbent or candidate in the 2014 elections that will receive the endorsement of both men: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).
On Friday, May 16, King announced his endorsement of Collins, a favorite among independent voters and moderate Republicans. In a statement to the Associated Press, King said:
"I’ve seen firsthand her work ethic, her intelligence and her integrity. She always puts Maine and the country first and isn’t afraid to cross party lines to get things done"
Collins will face Democrat Shenna Bellows, former director of Maine's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a general election she is expected to win easily. While Democrats were hoping for an upset victory in the Senate race, the most recent polling numbers show Collins with a comfortable lead over her opponent, 60-24.
King's endorsement comes after Rand Paul endorsed Collins during the Maine GOP Convention in April. Paul told local press before he took the stage to deliver the keynote speech that he whole-heartedly endorses her for re-election and he believes Collins "is doing a great job for Maine and the country."While King and Collins were once bitter political rivals during the 1994 gubernatorial election in Maine, they have left the race in the past and have become close colleagues in the U.S. Senate. King even joked that he believed he and Collins were the only two senators with joint letterhead as the two often put out joint statements. Both senators compliment each other on their willingness to bridge the massive political divide that is preventing anything from getting done in Washington.
While King caucuses with the Democrats, something many Republicans and conservatives have criticized him for, he is considered a centrist independent who caucuses with the majority for the purpose of political expediency. Caucusing with the majority can help ensure better committee assignments and puts him close to Senate leadership. While he has not officially announced his intentions, King made headlines when he said he was considering caucusing with Republicans if the GOP gained the Senate majority after the 2014 elections.
The 2014 midterms may see record-low turnouts as Americans have less enthusiasm to vote now than at any point in the last 20 years. The Grand Canyon-sized political divide in Washington has resulted in an increase in apathy among voters because many people have lost hope that anything can change. The people's perception of politics is negative. Congress has an approval rating that hovers around 10 percent in most nationwide polls and a majority of Americans no longer believe either major party represents the U.S.
It is unclear whether or not the Republican Party will be able to regain control of the Senate. Major polling groups have reported that it could be a bad year for Democrats, and it may be come November, but looking at the lack of enthusiasm among all voters -- Democrats, Republicans, third party, and independents -- winning the most competitive Senate elections nationwide may just come down to who has the most effective get out the vote campaign.
Despite being a Republican senator in a state Barack Obama took in 2012 by over 109,000 votes, Susan Collins is not on the list of incumbents who are in danger this year nor is the Senate race in Maine considered competitive. She is such a popular senator that her seat was not even in danger during the 2008 elections despite the huge Democratic wave Barack Obama rode into the White House. Collins arguably has the most appeal of any lawmaker nationwide and is extremely popular among independent voters.
Photo Credit: Ramona du Houx / Maine Insights