Collins says Republican Party needs to take 'hard look' at itself

Nov. 27—After Republicans' disappointing performance in this month's midterm elections, their senior-most elected official in Maine, Sen. Susan Collins, says it's time for a course correction.

Collins, who has represented the state in the U.S. Senate since 1997, said the national party has lost many moderate and independent voters and needs "to take a hard look at why."

"My view in general is that the Republican Party needs to be inclusive," she said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. "We need to reach out to younger voters, and we need to do a better job at reaching independent voters. Those are the keys to electoral success in our state and many others."

Her remarks came after the second election in a row in which Maine Republicans lost the governorship, both U.S. House seats and both chambers of the Legislature, with former Gov. Paul LePage losing his comeback bid by double digits. Despite high inflation and President Biden's poor favorability ratings, Republicans nationally were unable to recapture the U.S. Senate and only gained control of the 435-seat House by between three and five seats. (Two elections have yet to be called.)

"Why during a time when we had record high inflation and out-of-sight gas and home heating oil prices and unaffordable grocery costs did Republicans still not prevail?" she asked. "It is always helpful to take a hard look after a disappointing election to see what we could have done better."

Collins agreed with critics who have said former President Donald Trump damaged the party's prospects in several swing states by endorsing extreme candidates such as David Bolduc, who ran for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, and Blake Masters, who ran for U.S. Senate in Arizona. Both oppose abortion access and have denied the results of the 2020 election.

"Those are states in which the strongest candidate decided not to run," Collins noted. "If either (New Hampshire Gov.) Chris Sununu or (Arizona Gov.) Doug Ducey had run, they would have been very strong candidates."

She noted this wasn't the case in Maine, where the gubernatorial and 2nd Congressional District nominations were coronations. "No one really challenged Paul (LePage) for the nomination for governor, and no one really challenged Bruce (Poliquin)." Despite both having previously served in the offices they sought, both were defeated by wide margins.

Collins endorsed LePage but has said the former governor never asked her to campaign with him. She spent the last Sunday before the election stumping in the Philadelphia suburbs for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mehmet Oz instead of in Maine for the former governor, who underperformed across southern Maine and in Greater Bangor.

But she said the closely divided Senate offered an opportunity for people to work together across the aisle to pass legislation. "That will certainly be the approach I take," she said.