Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a hearing on COVID-19 on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington. Credit: Alex Edelman/Pool via AP

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Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan and in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine. He was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.

Tuesday’s debate didn’t bring a massive shake-up in the White House race. President Donald Trump refused to condemn violent racial militias, while former Vice President Joe Biden did his best Sheev Palpatine impression, declaring that he is the Democratic Party.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates it was not.

You know what would be wild? If a former vice presidential candidate crossed party lines to endorse Biden. Can you imagine if Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate, decided to endorse the Democrat?

It would be a huge shake-up, right?

So, would you be surprised to hear that it happened in Maine’s U.S. Senate race?

The Collins-Gideon contest is the tightest Senate race seen here in decades. Millions upon millions of dollars have poured into Maine to bombard us with awful ads.

There is plenty of sound and fury, with ominous music backing black-and-white photos. The other candidate’s perceived sins are then listed. The “Gideon Gas Gouge” — noting the House speaker’s support for increased fuel taxes — is one of the more colorful epithets levied by the GOP.

Conversely, Democrats fall all over themselves with their message that “Susan Collins has changed” with attempts to tie the incumbent closely to Trump.

Frankly, it’s exhausting. And annoying. The childish, substanceless sniping was rightly ridiculed in the presidential debate. It isn’t any better delivered 30 seconds at a time.

Nevertheless, it has been effective in drowning out what should be — by all rights — major news.

Three weeks ago, the former U.S. senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman endorsed Sen. Susan Collins’ reelection campaign.

Last year, current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin — a Democrat from West Virginia — endorsed the Aroostook County native as well.

Think about that. Everyone seemingly decries the hyperpartisan, no-holds-barred style of politics en vogue today. Yet, when a former Democratic VP candidate and current Democratic senator endorse a Republican, it barely registers.

The outside groups pouring millions into TV advertisements ignore these developments in their quest to paint Collins as “just another Republican.” Others dismiss Lieberman and Manchin as simple outsiders whose word should carry no weight with Mainers.

Ordinarily, I would agree.

GOP Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts also stepped forward to support Collins. Not a huge surprise, nor a huge impact on Mainers. The left-leaning Boston Globe and Maura Healy, the Democratic attorney general of Massachusetts, countered with their own endorsements of Sara Gideon.

Thankfully, this year we celebrated the 200th anniversary of Maine’s escape from the tyranny of the commonwealth. So who cares what people in Massachusetts think?

But the Lieberman and Manchin endorsements are different. Both men served with Collins in the Senate for more than a decade. They aren’t distracted by the silly advertisements offered by political groups; they know firsthand who Collins is.

That brings us back to Tuesday’s presidential debate. Neither candidate acquitted themselves well. The knock on Trump is that he is uncivil and “unpresidential.” Part of the case for Biden is that, having served 39 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president, he is somehow “above” Trump’s demeanor.

But Biden jumped in the mudpit all the same.

That is why the across-the-aisle endorsements of a former Democratic vice presidential candidate and a current Democratic senator are so impactful. There is a lot of talk about returning to cultural norms of bipartisanship, where elected leaders in Washington acquit themselves honorably.

Where they work together in good faith, even if they hold strong disagreements, to move responsible policy forward.

Two leading national Democrats, who have faced that exact situation, believe that Collins is the right person to help advance that cause. They believe it because they have seen it firsthand.

Sounds like a much better sight than the presidential debates. Or all the TV ads.

Come November, we’ll see if Mainers agree.

Michael Cianchette, Opinion contributor

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.