By Sam Youngman - 09/26/07 08:04 PM EDT
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has a perfect Senate voting record. If Maine voters don’t already know that, they will be educated in the coming weeks and months.
Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) has a 98 percent voting record in Congress. Voters most likely will hear about that, too.
For Collins, the early knock on Allen is that he has missed 129 votes, including 19 last week to attend fundraisers in California.
An aide to Collins, speaking on background, said that before last week, the senator’s campaign had polled on the issue of Allen’s missed votes twice, and both times, “and not surprisingly, it’s an issue that polls really well for us.”
The aide said that the senator includes a line in her stump speech when addressing Republican-only crowds that mentions her perfect attendance.
“That’s the biggest applause line that she gets every time,” the aide said.
In front of mixed crowds, Collins adds a line about Allen’s 129 missed votes, and there are “audible gasps” from the crowd.
The high-ranking aide said the campaign believed all along that Allen’s missed votes in a “good government” state will be an issue in the race, but he “upped the ante” by missing votes last week on issues like “terrorism risk insurance and affordable housing.”
The aide said Allen is defining his view of the race early, saying essentially that money is what is needed to win the race while the “plucky little senator from Maine just keeps plugging along.”
The aide added that while the issue may not look like much right now, they expect Allen “to get hammered” over it next year.
“I just believe this is going to go over like a lead balloon,” the aide said.
The state GOP has been trying to push the issue as well, releasing a statement late last week that read: “Welcome back to work, Tom Allen!”
“We were relieved when Tom Allen returned to work today to learn that he is in good health and we welcome him back,” state party Chairman Mark Ellis said in the statement. “But to miss 19 consecutive votes in a row for fundraising and campaigning more than a year before the election is inexcusable. This shows that Congressman Allen cares more about being a candidate than he does about doing his job.”
The Allen campaign, however, seemed to find Collins’s point of contention laughable, noting that Allen has a 98 percent attendance record.
And, they say, the votes he has made were the right ones, such as voting against the Iraq war and voting to get out of Iraq.
“There’s more than just quantity here,” Allen spokeswoman Valerie Martin said. “This is a question of quality of votes, and who’s making the right decisions for Maine.
“He’s proud of his voting record.”
Allen just returned from a recess where he divided his time between Iraq and Maine, Martin said, and his campaign is plugging away.
One of the big questions Allen faced when he announced that he would run against Collins was how would he build his name recognition in the state’s 2nd district when he had only represented the 1st since 1996.
Both sides said that question appears to be answered, as Martin said “people have been receptive all over the state” and even the aide to Collins acknowledged that Allen’s name I.D. in the 2nd district is “good,” according to their internal polling.
“It’s not as good as Collins or [Republican Sen. Olympia] Snowe, but it’s pretty good,” the aide said. “He’s actually pretty well-known.”