Numbers: Why Conservatives Shouldn’t Primary Susan Collins

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I am a big fan of primary challenges, and I think they help to hold Republicans accountable in states likely to stay red. That’s why I was happy to see Mike Lee oust Bob Bennett in Utah, and despite the final result, it was time for Lugar to go in Indiana. My general philosophy is, I will support the most conservative candidate who can win. Why the last part? Because we need a governing majority, not just an ideological majority.

It’s that “who can win” test that forces me to urge fellow conservatives to back off Susan Collins in Maine. Senator Collins is undoubtedly one of the most liberal members of the Republican caucus, but there’s not a viable more conservative option in the entire state. It’s just numbers. Public Policy Polling confirms this:

PPP’s newest Maine poll finds that if Susan Collins is the Republican candidate for Senate next year, she’ll get reelected. Collins is one of the most popular Senators in the country, with 63% of voters approving of her to 24% who disapprove. She accomplishes the incredibly rare feat in these times of having at least a 60% approval across party lines- she’s at 66/24 with Republicans, 64/24 with independents, and 60/25 with Democrats.

Collins would easily dispatch either of her state’s members of Congress in a head to head match up. Despite Mike Michaud’s own stellar 58/23 favorability rating, Collins would lead him 54/36 in a head to head match up. And Collins’ lead over Chellie Pingree would be even more substantial at 58/33. In both contests Collins carries 34% of the Democratic vote and wins independents by more than 20 points.

Yet, despite Collins’ popularity, Republicans would still like to see someone more conservative challenge her in a primary. She only beats an unnamed “more conservative” challenger by 3 points, according to PPP. The biggest problem is what happens if Collins isn’t the GOP nominee. Take a look at these numbers, for the GOP’s 2012 nominee Charlie Summers:

The GOP would be shooting itself in the foot if it did depose Collins though. We looked at how 2012 nominee Charlie Summers would do as an alternative to her and he would get crushed- he trails Michaud 57/32 and Pingree 50/39 in hypothetical match ups. The GOP’s chances of holding onto one of Maine’s Senate seats may die as soon as Collins exits the Senate.

I understand the desire to primary Susan Collins, but there are plenty of other opportunities to purge entrenched moderates and liberals (Georgia, anyone?). I will support the most conservative candidate who can win, in any contest, and for Maine’s Senate seat, that’s Collins.

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