MAINE: Susan Collins is the only Republican Senator facing re-election in a state carried by Obama in 2012. Yet her Democratic challenger, Shenna Bellows, a former Maine American Civil Liberties Union director, has received little outside financial funding or national political guidance.
The reason can be found in Collins’ moderate streak and high popularity. Every major election handicapper has projected an easy victory for the GOP this November in Maine, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which supports other first-timers like Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and Michelle Nunn in Georgia, hasn’t even put Bellows on its map to a majority. So, what is this loner candidate to do? Bellows is relying on wedge issues to form, as she tells Time, an “unusual coalition of support” around civil liberties, including legalizing marijuana.
On its face, the strategy has merit. Both marijuana and privacy concerns raised by the National Security Agency scandals attract anti-Washington voters from liberals to libertarians. Combined with help from a grassroots campaign and a Lincoln-like narrative, Bellows hopes to chip away at a 39-point hole, as registered by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP). (That poll, in November, found Collins was even beating Bellows by 14 points among Democrats.)