Sen. Susan Collins toured through W.S. Emerson Co. in Brewer in this July 31, 2020, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “She is going to be vilified, no matter who she is,” Sarah Oates, a political communications professor at the University of Maryland, said of California Sen. Kamala Harris being picked as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s vice presidential nominee. “In 2020, people are much more attuned and aware of it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to make it better, but at least you can be more aware of the toxicity.”

What we’re watching today

With 83 days until Election Day, there are promising signs for Democrats in Maine, but plenty of time for fundamentals to shift. A Bangor Daily News poll showed around 1 in 5 voters were not ready to pick a candidate, and factors like Biden’s vice presidential pick, coronavirus trends and the state of the economy could all sway voters on the margin in the coming months.

The BDN poll echoed several others over the past few months that have had the Democrat up in Maine’s highly watched U.S. Senate race. House Speaker Sara Gideon was 5 points ahead of Sen. Susan Collins among likely voters, the poll found, while Democrats had an advantage in competitive races up and down the ballot. First-term Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, held an even larger lead, while Biden was up significantly over President Donald Trump statewide.

But there’s still a lot that could change between now and Election Day — polls provide a snapshot of where the race stands right now, but they don’t predict events that could shift the races in the coming weeks or months.

We can’t stress the uncertainty of this election enough and thinking about races in probabilities is safest. While Biden has a healthy polling lead in Maine and has shown himself to be competitive in the 2nd District, a Trump rally is not out of the question. New FiveThirtyEight forecasts give him a 64 percent chance of winning the 2nd District and a 23 percent chance of winning the whole state over Biden. (Put another way, a 23 percent probability is roughly the chance that you flip a coin twice and it comes up heads both times — a scenario no one would rule out.)

Despite Gideon’s polling lead, JHK Forecasts gives Collins a 34 percent chance of winning — helpfully comparing those odds to the chance an NBA player has to make a 3-point shot. Those are not yawning gaps for now and the coronavirus plays into this deep uncertainty.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine voters’ level of concern about climate change breaks down by party lines,” Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News: “Overall, 77 percent of poll respondents said they were concerned about the impacts of the changing climate, with 47 percent saying they were ‘very concerned’ and 30 percent ‘somewhat concerned.’ Twelve percent said they were ‘not too concerned,’ and 9 percent said they were ‘not at all concerned.’”

Maine voters look to be generally more concerned about climate change than the rest of the U.S. This poll of Maine is on the high side of national polls conducted in 2015 and 2016 on the issue. At most, 75 percent of voters nationally were at least concerned about climate change at that time. The increased urgency on the issue in Maine is not surprising, given the state’s Democratic lean and the importance of natural resources here.

— “Returning UMaine students wonder whether classmates will take COVID-19 seriously,” Nina Mahaleris, BDN: “Some fear what will happen if the university is forced to shut down again, and that the influx of out-of-state students could turn Orono into a coronavirus hotspot. Many are facing internal conflicts between wanting to be back in the classroom and not wanting to risk exposure to the virus on campus. And others lament the loss of sports and extracurricular activities that define many students’ college experience.”

— “Libertarian presidential candidate qualifies for Maine ballot, ending lawsuit against state,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “The party promoting civil liberties and small government was recognized in Maine between June 2016 and December 2018, but it then failed to reach a voter threshold to be recognized as a party. Jorgensen was therefore required to collect 4,000 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot, the state’s threshold for non-party candidates.”

Saco Democrat makes a run for Senate seat

A Saco lawmaker wants to move to the Maine Senate after a two-term Democratic incumbent said he would leave the upper chamber. Rep. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, is on her second term in the House and has served as the co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, and was one of the major drivers behind a legislative effort to recognize tribal sovereignty this session. Her announcement comes a day after Justin Chenette, who joined the Legislature at age 20 and served two terms in the House prior to his Senate tenure, announced he would not seek a second term in the chamber.

Bailey will face Republican William Gombar, who briefly challenged Chenette in 2016 before withdrawing, in the general election for the seat representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach and inland towns. Bailey will be favored to win in the Democratic-leaning district.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...