Good morning from Augusta. There are eight days until the November election. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “People don’t realize what they’re getting into if they’re moving out of New York City where everything is a subway or bus ride away, and they don’t realize what they’re getting into with a Rangeley winter,” said Stephen Philbrick, a Rangeley selectman. The Franklin County town has seen a surge in newcomers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
What we are watching today
The 2nd Congressional District is seeing a surge in campaigning with just over a week to go Election Day. President Donald Trump made a last-minute visit to a Levant orchard on Sunday, where he briefly showed face and made remarks using a bullhorn interrupted by bleating baby goats. He touted an order he signed when he was in Maine reopening a national monument southeast of Cape Cod to fishing, though it lies far from the state and few Maine fishermen operate there.
The president’s visit, his second visit to the 2nd District this year, came the day after Doug Emhoff, husband of Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, campaigned in Aroostook County. Jill Biden, the wife of former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, will be visiting Maine tomorrow as well, though few details of her visit have been announced. It’s an unprecedented amount of late campaigning here.
Visits may not persuade many voters at this point, but they do have the effect of rallying each party’s base with a goal of increasing turnout. At least several hundred people showed up in Levant with event staff marking the crowd at 3,000 for Trump’s 15-minute visit despite no formal announcement of the event. Democrats held a countering press conference in Bangor on Sunday, featuring Gov. Janet Mills and House Speaker Sara Gideon, who is facing U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Mills chided the president for only visiting Maine in election years.
Trump won the 2nd District by 10 points in 2016, but polling has been significantly closer this year. Most models rate the race a tossup, though its single electoral vote is still unlikely to be a tipping point. That has not stopped both campaigns from sending surrogates, however. Hundreds turned out for an event with Vice President Mike Pence in nearby Hermon earlier last week. Both of Trump’s sons have also visited Maine. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, came to Lewiston earlier this month to stump for Biden.
Senate to vote on Supreme Court nomination
Collins will be the only member of her party to oppose Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, while Maine’s junior senator floated court-packing in a late-night floor speech. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said this weekend that she would vote in favor of Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination after voting against a motion to move forward with it, making Collins the only senator from her party to oppose the nomination.
The Maine Republican has declined to say what she thinks of Barrett as a judge, but Collins has cited procedural reasons against voting for her, saying it is not fair for Republicans to vote to confirm a justice in an election year after blocking a vote on a judge nominated by former President Barack Obama in 2016. Barrett’s nomination is expected to sail through despite Collins’ opposition, as 52 Republicans favor it.
Meanwhile, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who opposes Barrett’s nomination, floated the idea of adding justices to the Supreme Court, which progressives are calling for if Democrats win control of Washington in the 2020 election that Biden has balked at but not ruled out.
“I don’t want to pack the court. I don’t want to change the number,” King said. “I don’t want to have to do that, but if all of this rule-breaking is taking place, what does the majority expect? What do they expect?”
The Maine politics top 3
— “Medicaid ranks surge amid pandemic as Maine lawmakers look to shield expanded coverage,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “Expansion enrollment grew 40 percent from 45,000 on March 1 to 63,000 by Oct. 1 in Maine. Costs have not been as great as they could be amid increased federal funding and people seeking less medical care than in pre-pandemic times, but Medicaid could join a litany of state budget challenges amid an estimated $1.4 billion shortfall over three years.”
— “Maine schools haven’t been testing students for COVID-19, and that’s probably OK,” Eesha Pendharkar, Bangor Daily News: “Most Maine schools have stayed open throughout the nearly two months students have been back for in-person learning, with a handful shutting down temporarily in response to outbreaks and individual virus cases. Across the country, schools don’t appear to have become the major sources of COVID-19 transmission that many had feared. Elementary schools especially have seen relatively few infections.”
— “Maine’s high court rejects lawsuit seeking major pandemic voting changes,” Andrews, BDN: “The group appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court after a lower-court judge turned it back in late September, saying the changes risked ‘severe disruption’ of the election. A panel of four high court justices maintained that stance Friday, saying voters will be afforded ‘fundamental fairness.’”
A different kind of bipartisan ad
An ad from a conservative pro-LGBTQ group released last week is making a different argument for Collins’ record. In a time when Collins has brushed off questions about her support for Trump this year, a new ad from the American Unity PAC is saying Collins will be able to work across the aisle regardless of who is in the Oval Office, including Biden. It features C-SPAN footage of the two candidates greeting each other and highlighting policy similarities like Collins’ vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
The level to which Collins can be considered bipartisan has been a key argument to both sides during the election. Supporters say she is the most bipartisan member of the U.S.Senate and point to accolades she has gotten as proof, along with only voting with Trump 67.5 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. Naysayers say those metrics do not weigh more consequential votes enough, like her vote for Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd, Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email firstname.lastname@example.org (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.
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