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Election handicapper moves Maine Senate race to 'leans Democratic'

Election handicapper moves Maine Senate race to 'leans Democratic'
© Greg Nash

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the election handicapper at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has shifted Maine’s hotly contested Senate race toward Democrat Sara Gideon.

The rating change from "toss-up" to "lean Democratic" is the latest sign of trouble for Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Maine), who is among the most vulnerable GOP senators facing reelection this year.

Recent polls show Gideon, the Maine state House Speaker, leading in her bid to unseat Collins, including a New York Times-Siena College survey released last week that found the Maine senator trailing by 5 points.

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The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for high court's COVID-19 decision Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship MORE on Friday also injected a new air of uncertainty into the Senate race. After Ginsburg died, Collins called for the Senate to wait until after the November elections to confirm a replacement to the court, a position at odds with GOP leaders.

The Supreme Court is already a touchy issue for Collins. Her vote to confirm Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process The magnificent moderation of Susan Collins MORE in 2018 infuriated Democrats and helped set off the current fight to unseat her.

There may be another challenge for Collins: Maine’s ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to rank candidates by preference on their ballot. 

In its analysis of the race, Sabato’s Crystal Ball noted that two independent candidates, Lisa Savage and Max Linn, appeared to be receiving enough support to prevent either Collins or Gideon from notching 50 percent of the vote outright. 

The New York Times-Siena College poll released last week showed Gideon leading Collins 44 percent to 40 percent on an initial ballot, with Savage and Linn taking 2 percent support each. Once the two independent candidates’ votes were allocated to Gideon and Collins, Gideon led the incumbent 49 percent to 44 percent.