AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are not on the ballot next month, but they are on the campaign trail for other GOP candidates across the state, and in other states.
“I plan to be pretty active both here in Maine and elsewhere,” Snowe said. “I have always tried to assist candidates when I can with fundraising, with appearances and will help them in their campaigns.”
She has appeared at events with the GOP top of the ticket candidates, gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage, 1st District congressional candidate Dean Scontras and 2nd District congressional candidate Jason Levesque. So has Collins.
“I am going to be campaigning very hard for Republican candidates in Maine, which is my first priority, but also across the country,” she said. “I will be attending events and helping to raise money and doing as much as I can to help candidates.”
Collins said she has appeared with dozens of local candidates throughout the state and has campaigned in Philadelphia for Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee Pat Toomey. She may campaign for other Senate candidates if she is asked and schedules permit.
“This is a very important election here in Maine and across the country,” she said. “These elections are going to be so critical in determining the future of our state that I have to be involved.”
Snowe agreed. She said she plans to be “very active” in helping candidates for the Legislature. She said that as a former state lawmaker, she knows how important it is to have GOP lawmakers in the Legislature.
University of Maine at Farmington political science professor Jim Melcher said the two senators could be a big benefit for all of the GOP candidates, particularly the legislative candidates. He said they can be a big draw for campaign events and help “fire up” volunteers.
“I have also seen many cases where legislative candidates have posed with the senators for pictures they use in their campaign fliers, which can reassure voters that they aren’t off-the-wall candidates,” he said.
Melcher said that while all of that is helpful, he does not think the popularity of Snowe and Collins will likely swing many voters to support candidates they endorse.
“But they are certainly much more useful to Republican candidates than a less popular figure, like John Baldacci is now, to his party’s candidates,” he said.
Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, agreed the two senators would help state candidates. He said those that are running as a privately financed candidate can get a big boost from a fundraiser with a senator as the draw.
Brewer said with most candidates in both parties opting for public financing for state legislative races under the Clean Elections law, fundraising help from the two senators is limited. But for the congressional candidates, he said the senators help not only with fundraising, they help the candidates gain attention they would have difficulty getting on their own.
Brewer said he is puzzled that the senators are embracing Paul LePage, the GOP nominee for governor. He said LePage is clearly way to the right of Snowe and Collins, who have had broad support among moderate voters of all political persuasions.
But, Brewer said, if LePage is successful and is elected governor, his support of the senators in their future elections could be crucial to heading off a primary challenge for either one of them been criticized by the right wing of the party as being “RINOs,” Republicans in name only.
Both senators have scoffed at the RINO accusations and have reminded detractors that they are elected to represent all Mainers, not just some.