Sacrificial lambs

 Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  September 26, 2013

With the polls in Maine still more than 13 months from opening, we here at the Politics + Other Mistakes Center for Farcical Statistical Analysis are ready to call some of the 2014 races. Our projections show Republican Susan Collins winning re-election to the US Senate by a sizable margin, probably more than 20 percentage points. And Democrat Chellie Pingree will also retain her seat representing the 1st Congressional District with what look like landslide numbers.

We base these assessments on a complex mathematical theorem:

If there’s nobody of consequence running against you, it’s pretty hard to lose.

Collins and Pingree are virtually assured of having a cakewalk back into their respective offices due to the utter unelectability of their opposition. But that doesn’t mean their races won’t be worth watching, if only to determine if any of the candidates seeking in vain to replace them have some sort of political future.

The opponent most likely to survive a sound thrashing is Democrat Shenna Bellows, who’s considering a bid against Collins. For the past eight years, Bellows has been the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. The ACLU’s state chapter has approximately 2800 members, so she probably won’t get fewer votes than that.

Actually, she might get quite a bit more. Unlike many candidates in hopeless races, Bellows is articulate, well-informed, and has a substantial track record of political success. She was a key player in efforts to overturn Republican-backed legislation to do away with same-day voter registration. She also played a front-line role in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine. And she’s been able to work with Tea Partiers and other libertarians on issues such as legalizing marijuana and limiting the ability of government to meddle in citizens’ lives. She knows how to handle herself in front of the news media and is unlikely to say stupid stuff. If this were an open seat, she’d be a serious contender.

But it isn’t and she’s not.

Unlike Cynthia Dill, the most recent Democrat to run for the Senate, Bellows should be able to hold the party base, giving her 30 to 35 percent of the vote. If she does a particularly effective job of campaigning or if Collins takes her too lightly, she stands an outside chance of breaking the 40 percent barrier, thereby making her an automatic frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for whatever major office she wants to run for in the future.

Before that can happen, though, Bellows has to lose in ’14. And as our projections show, she’s well on the way to doing so even before she officially gets in the race.

As for the congressional contest in southern Maine, Pingree has money, name recognition, and a voting record in line with her liberal constituency. Her two GOP opponents have none of those things.

Isaac Misiuk of Gorham is 24 years old, vice-chairman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee and a former student senator at the University of Southern Maine. According to his website he’s “determined” and “fiscally responsible.” He told the Bangor Daily News he wants to focus on increasing opportunities for recent college graduates and other young people. “My generation needs a leader,” Misiuk said, “and I’m answering that call.”

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