A screenshot of Thursday’s Great Falls Forum, with Bates College professors John Baughman, left, and Michael Sargent, right. Below is Marcela Peres, director of the Lewiston Public Library.

Mainers proved much less partisan in the Nov. 3 election than their counterparts around the country, two Bates College professors with a passion for politics said Thursday.

“Maine very much cut against the grain,” John Baughman, associate professor of politics at Bates, said during an online Great Falls Forum.

The state as a whole backed Democrat Joe Biden for president by a wide margin, yet a majority of Maine voters also agreed to send Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins back to Washington for a fifth term.

In the 2nd Congressional District, which picked Trump over Biden by a margin of 53% to 45%, voters went the other way to reelect Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden to a second term. He wound up doing a little better than Trump.

Collins and Golden were able to focus on local issues rather than their party’s national appeal, said Baughman, who answered questions posed by Michael Sargent, an associate professor of psychology at Bates at the forum sponsored by the college, the Sun Journal and the Lewiston Public Library.

Baughman said in Maine and elsewhere Biden “did better than the Democratic Party overall,” outperforming most of the party’s other candidates in nearly every district. Golden, clearly, was an exception to the rule.

He said he sees in the results released so far signs the electorate rejected Trump personally, but many of the “Never Trumpers” were “perfectly comfortable supporting other Republicans,” including Collins, while picking Biden for president.

Baughman said he suspected some of the anti-Trump faction inside the GOP “came home” in the race’s final days to back other Republicans once they were reasonably confident Biden would defeat Trump.

Both scholars said they had been watching what is happening in Georgia, where two U.S. Senate runoffs will determine which party controls the Senate during the next term.

Sargent said Biden’s victory in Georgia and the strong races run by both Democratic Senate contenders is an indication Stacey Abrams succeeded in a long-term effort to mobilize her party’s supporters.

Although the race there was in part a referendum on Trump, they said efforts by Abrams and others to change the electorate, helped along by automatic voter registration for those getting driver’s licenses, helped turn a formerly red state into a place Democrats have a shot.

“I think it’s more than just Trump at the top of the ticket,” Baughman said, adding Georgia could become as reliably Democratic as Virginia is now.

He said, though, that Democrats have a wider coalition to try to hold together, one where its moderates, such a Golden, have to work with progressives whose agenda is much different.

It makes for a lot internal friction, Baughman said, but he thought the party will hold itself together better than the Republicans did in 2017 and 2018, when the Freedom Caucus “sort of kneecapped” former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin with its refusal to compromise on its own conservative agenda, paving the way for Democrats to seize control of the House in 2018.

Baughman said Golden shows the value in focusing on issues that matter within a district, rather than on national matters.

Golden, he said, “was able to reach a lot of Trump voters that other Democrats could not” because he worked at local issues and avoided national controversies.

Baughman said Republican challenger Dale Crafts of Lisbon, who lost 53% to 47%, could not find a way to “nationalize” the race.

“He ought to have been able to win,” Baughman said, but he did not have the money and could not find the key to bring down an incumbent who was widely considered vulnerable at the beginning of 2020.

Baughman said incumbency is always a big help, and it no doubt boosted Golden, a Lewiston resident who graduated from Bates.

It is “an incredibly difficult task” to defeat someone who is in office, Baughman said, one reason Democrats should recognize Biden deserves credit for winning his race.

The hourlong talk is available for viewing on the library’s Facebook page. It is also slated to go on the library’s website Friday.

The next Great Falls Forum, now in its 23rd year, is slated for noon on Feb. 18. It is to feature a talk by Andrea Breau, a feminist youth studies scholar who served as the first project coordinator for Bates’ Diverse BookFinder program.


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