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Bush backs Collins with first endorsement of the 2020 cycle

Former President George W. Bush endorsed Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him GOP blocks effort to make payroll tax deferral optional for federal workers COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks MORE (R-Maine) for reelection on Friday, giving a boost to one of the GOP’s most vulnerable senators in 2020.

“She’s honest, period. She’s forthright, period,” Bush told The Associated Press after having lunch with Collins at his vacation home in Maine.

“She brings dignity into a world that has gotten really ugly,” Bush added.

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The endorsement is Bush’s first of the cycle. He has largely steered clear of campaign politics since President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE was elected in 2016.

A Quinnipiac University survey released earlier this month found Democrat Sara Gideon leading Collins by 4 points, 47 percent to 43 percent.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a "toss-up."

Money has been pouring into the race, with Gideon, the Speaker of the Maine state House, drawing an astonishing $23 million so far this cycle, compared to $16.3 million for Collins. 

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE carried Maine by less than 3 points in 2016. The Trump campaign has circled the state as one of three battlegrounds that it believes it can flip in 2020.

Collins has at times criticized Trump, and she voted against his effort to repeal ObamaCare. However, Democrats have cast her as a rubber stamp for Trump’s agenda, and some of the president’s Republican critics say she has not done enough to stand up to him.