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Sen. Susan Collins

Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) mildly criticized Donald Trump for deliberately misleading the nation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday evening, Collins faced off against her general election opponent, Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon, in their first debate. Analysts have called the Maine Senate race a "toss-up" that could be key to deciding which party controls the Senate come January.


On Thursday, Collins told Maine Public Radio that she disagreed with some of Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic. "His handling of the coronavirus crisis has been extremely uneven," she said, repeating her April assessment. She has refused to say whether she will vote for Trump this November.

Asked about Trump's admitted efforts to deceive the American people about the severity of the virus, Collins answered: "I believe you have to be straight with the American people and tell them exactly how high the stakes are."

The comments came a day after journalist Bob Woodward made public portions of his recorded interviews with Trump for his upcoming book, Rage.

"You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed," Trump told Woodward on Feb. 7. "And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus." This directly contradicted his public claims about the severity of the virus at the time.

In a recording made in March, Trump admitted that he "wanted to always play it down."

Collins, who has refused to say whether she will support Trump's reelection because of her own "difficult race," has previously expressed concern about Trump's actions — while voting with him more than two-thirds of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight's tracker. She voted to give lifetime appointments to the vast majority of Trump's more than 200 judicial nominees, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

A Collins spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story. But on at least 24 previous occasions, the Maine Republican has expressed in various ways that she has been "disappointed" by Trump.

In February, she voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, suggesting that he had learned a "pretty big lesson" and "would be more cautious in the future." That comment came just a few weeks before Trump lied to the American public that the coronavirus was less dangerous than the "common flu."

Collins later backed off her assertion that Trump would be more cautious, admitting it was "more aspirational on my part."

Trump endorsed Collins last December, tweeting that he agreed "100%" with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that she "showed unbelievable courage during Justice Kavanaugh's confirmation and at other times when our country has needed a steady voice" and that she deserved support in her reelection campaign.

According to RealClearPolitics' polling average, Gideon enjoys a 4.5 percent lead over Collins. But that analysis does not include the results of a poll conducted by Citizen Data between Sept. 4 and 7 that found Gideon leading by about 49 percent to 41 percent among likely Maine voters.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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