QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When people say it’s just like the flu, I don’t think they realize,” Shauna Bergstrom of Belfast said about living with the long-term repercussions of the coronavirus. “Financially, can they tolerate being sick for months? Mentally, can they tolerate it?”
What we’re watching today
Uncertainty remains about Maine’s U.S. Senate race heading into Election Day. House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has maintained narrow leads over Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, in the polls all year, but the race, which also includes independents Lisa Savage and Max Linn, remains tight. Margins could mean everything in a ranked-choice runoff.
Gideon has a 65 percent chance of winning that has slipped a bit in recent days, according to a Decision Desk HQ model. An Emerson College poll released Sunday showed Gideon leading Collins 48 percent to 42 percent, with Savage at four percent and Linn at one percent. Four percent of voters in the poll were undecided, but that group skewed heavily toward Collins when asked which way they were leaning.
It is not uncommon to see undecided voters break toward the incumbent, but this suggests Collins could gain ground at the last minute. Polls always have some uncertainty, even at this stage. Disproportionate turnout among any particular group could point to a different outcome.
Ranked-choice voting could play a role, but it would have to be close. Polls from Colby College, SurveyUSA and Emerson all show slightly more than half of Savage voters ranking Gideon second. The former Green has encouraged her supporters to list the Democrat as their second choice.
Whether that could end up mattering depends on how the first-round results play out. If Gideon leads after the first round, the support of Savage voters could make a Collins comeback tough. But if the incumbent Republican senator is ahead, it will matter how many votes Savage got in the first round, what share of her voters ultimately followed her advice and ranked Gideon second, and how many voters who preferred her or Linn actually ranked Collins second.
Maine voters remember how now U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from the 2nd District, pulled off a victory two years ago after trailing by 2,100 votes in the first round but picking up votes during a ranked-choice runoff. In that election, independent candidates received a combined 8 percent in the first round of voting.
It seems likely at this point that no candidate in the Senate race will clear the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a ranked-choice runoff. A margin of just a few thousand votes after the first round could result in a repeat of the 2018 congressional race. But a larger gap would likely be difficult for either candidate to surmount.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Susan Collins and Sara Gideon make closing arguments in Maine’s historic US Senate race,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “The two are criss-crossing the state this weekend to make final arguments as they near the Tuesday election. The race could decide control of the Senate, has been marked by record spending nearing $200 million and was shaped by the coronavirus pandemic.”
The candidates have packed schedules on Monday as they make their final stops before Election Day. Collins has a full day scheduled in Aroostook County, making stops from Oakfield to Portage Lake, up Route 11 to Fort Kent and over to Madawaska and St. Agatha. Gideon will start the day at a health care facility in Presque Isle and hit three more counties with stops in Atkinson, Skowhegan and for a final campaign dinner with supporters in Unity on Monday.
— “Surge of young voters could play a big role in Maine’s competitive races on Tuesday,” Piper, BDN: “Maine is not unique. Nationally, about 28 percent of ballots have been cast by voters who did not vote in 2016. But Maine is one of a handful of states where the surge could swing competitive races, including the Senate contest and the presidential race in the 2nd Congressional District between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.”
Young people are also filling in as poll workers, a job often occupied by retirees, to ensure smooth election administration amid the pandemic. As the pandemic has caused traditional poll workers to worry about working in public and driven a record number of absentee ballot voters, younger workers say doing the behind the scenes work around election has made them feel better about the process and more connected to politics.
— “Janet Mills pushes back bar reopenings, reduces indoor gathering limits as Maine cases spike,” Nick Sambides Jr., BDN: “Gov. Janet Mills is delaying the reopening of bars and lowering the maximum number of people allowed to gather indoors to 50 following a spike in new coronavirus cases this week that raised fears that the virus is out of control, she announced Sunday.”
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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