Gov. Paul LePage blasted fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins during a conversation on a conservative talk radio show last Friday. When asked by WGAN radio host Ken Altshuler about a potential run for governor by Collins in 2018, LePage was skeptical that she would have a chance of winning because of her opposition to Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.
“I think Susan Collins is done in Maine,” said LePage. “I think her decision to go against the wishes of the Maine Republicans really cooked her goose. I think she was looking to get into the Clinton administration. I really believe that. Some of her… decisions to come out against Donald Trump are not going to bode well. If you take a look at all the US senators that went against Donald Trump, they lost their re-elections.”
Back in August, Collins announced in a column in the Washington Post that she could not support Trump because of a number of the reality TV star’s “denigrating comments” about Sen. John McCain, Fox News host Megyn Kelly, a reporter with disabilities, a federal judge of Mexican descent, the parents of deceased Army Capt. Humayun Khan and ethnic and religious minorities. Collins has long been rumored to be considering a run for governor, but people close to her have dismissed the rumors.
Collins has endorsed LePage twice, raised money for his election campaigns and declined to comment on the governor’s violent, racially charged comments about people of color. But in response to the governor's comments, Collins' team was a little feistier.
"Her goose not only hasn't been cooked, it hasn't even been plucked yet," wrote Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark in an email. "In fact, her goose is alive and healthy and looking forward to many more years of service to Maine."
Clark denied that Collins was ever looking for a position in a Clinton administration.
"During the course of the raucous presidential campaign, Senator Collins repeatedly described Hillary as a flawed candidate and made it clear that she could not support her," wrote Clark. "Had she been seeking a cabinet position, she would have endorsed Secretary Clinton and voted for her-- which she obviously did not do. Senator Collins had no expectation that either candidate, if elected, would ask her to serve in his or her cabinet, and she would not have accepted such a position had it been offered."
Collins is the second most popular US Senator in the country (second to Bernie Sanders) with an approval rating of 79 percent, according to a 2015 survey by Morning Consult. However, other polls have shown her support slipping among Republicans. In 2013, Public Policy Polling found that 44 percent of GOP voters said they’d support a more conservative candidate than Collins for Senate while only 38 percent said she belongs in the Republican Party. 26 percent said she should be an independent and 22 percent said she should be a Democrat.
But although Collins may have hurt herself politically with Republicans for standing up to Trump, the four-term senator says she hopes to make more progress in the next session with complete Republican control of the legislative and executive branches of the government. According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, Collins told an audience at Bates College last week that she wrote in Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for president because she thinks he is “a person of great character” who’s not afraid to take on big issues. Collins reportedly said one of her main priorities will be to keep Social Security solvent. She said one option to do that could be to increase the Social Security payroll tax, cut benefits and raise the retirement age to 67 for younger workers.
On Sunday, Paul Ryan told Fox News Special Report hosts that one of the first initiatives for House Republicans in January will be to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance. On the other hand, Trump has, at times, promised to preserve Medicare for future generations and to not make any changes to Social Security.
As for whether LePage might consider taking a job in the Trump administration, the governor said, “I don’t expect I’ll be asked and I’m … it’s not something I’m thinking about. Right now I’m working on getting a budget done for the next biennium.”
However, the governor wouldn’t rule out a run against independent US Sen. Angus King in 2018. “The only reason that I would run against Angus King is I believe that he has had a free ride with the people of the state of Maine, despite the fact that he’s really not a Mainer, he’s from Virginia. There are several things he’s done that I don’t think the Maine people know. I think it’s important that the Maine people know and they’ll make their choice. So if he runs for US Senate, there’s a high likelihood that I would run.”
King spokesman Scott Ogden confirmed that King will run for re-election in 2018.
“I think if you asked most people in Maine, they’d say three successful statewide elections isn’t a free pass, and while Senator King has only been in Maine for 47 years, he has long said he would have preferred to be born in the state, but unfortunately he didn’t have much say in the matter and he loves his mother too much to cast blame,” wrote Ogden. “Senator King will run for re-election to the Senate in 2018, but for now, he is focused on working with President-elect Trump and his colleagues in Congress to improve the lives of Mainers and strengthen the country.”