EDITORIAL: Collins vs. Bellows. It's a race.
There’s only been one poll taken so far in the race between Shenna Bellows and Susan Collins for U.S. Senate, and that one was only a couple of weeks into Bellows’ entering the race, so we don’t know where the poll numbers are exactly. But there has been both a real and a perceived shift in how Bellows is being seen by the electorate.
How do we know? There’s another group of numbers that are equally important.
That’s the fourth quarter fundraising numbers.
Bellows actually outpaced Collins in that critical test. From October — December 2013, Collins gained $314,921, while Bellows garnered $331,454. According to Jeff Beam, Bellow’s communications director, most of her funds were small dollar donations of $100 or less, and 80 percent of the money came from Mainers.
Bellows didn’t officially join the race until late in October, so the figures are even more striking. That would be thousands of Mainers voting for Bellows with their checkbooks at a difficult time of year to get people to spend on anything except the holidays.
Although Collins still has a larger war chest — slightly more than $3 million in cash still available as she seeks a fourth six-year term in the U.S. Senate — the difference in fundraising through the fourth quarter is telling.
There is no question that Bellows has a financial disadvantage, and a steep one at that. But the numbers show that Bellows is gaining traction in a race that most believed would be a cakewalk for Collins.
Bellows, former Maine ACLU head, is getting some unexpected support from the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, as well as liberals on the Democratic side.
In November, Collins had a clear advantage, even among Democrats. Now that people are getting to know Bellows, that may no longer be the case.
Bellows has made it her mission to travel to every county in the state, and most of the towns and cities, before the end of the campaign. If she doesn’t prevail, it won’t be for lack of pressing the flesh.
We won’t have a clear idea where the poll numbers are until possibly April. But if Bellows’ financials keep brightening, we think it’s entirely possible that we’ll have a viable race between these two intelligent women for one of Maine’s most important positions in the federal government.
That’s a welcome change from business as usual and the “incumbentitis” that normally infects Maine elections.
It will suggest to Collins — and to Bellows — that the voters are watching and listening.
And some of them, at least, may be willing to part with cash to support a candidate whom no one thought had a chance in November.
With the Democratic Senate on the line, the Collins-Bellows race may be outsized in its importance.
Whatever the outcome, this race may be one to watch.