Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has received 3,000 coat hangers in the mail. Women dressed as handmaids in red robes and bonnets have shown up at her home in Maine to protest. Activists have raised over $1 million for her 2020 challenger should she vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.
And the pressure continues to mount on Collins and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Senate’s two potential swing votes, in the final days before a decision on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick ― a conservative judge who could potentially gut abortion rights in the United States.
Planned Parenthood launched a six-figure cable and digital ad campaign in Maine on Wednesday that features a focus group of independent female voters who strongly want Collins to oppose Kavanaugh. NARAL Pro-Choice America put an additional $500,000 into its $260,000 ad campaign in Maine this week, which will run on TV and online in Maine until the vote.
Planned Parenthood and NARAL have also spent over $1 million in Alaska, with the latter taking out ads in the Anchorage Daily News as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google. Polls commissioned by Planned Parenthood in both states show that a strong majority of voters would like to see Roe v. Wade upheld. Kavanaugh has indicated hostility toward the landmark 1973 abortion rights decision.
Collins and Murkowski both claim to support abortion rights, and have bucked their party before to protect federal funding grants to Planned Parenthood. Both senators claim to be undecided on Kavanaugh. Collins has said she’s impervious to outside political pressure.
“Attempts at bribery or extortion will not influence my vote at all,” she said Tuesday, referring to the crowdfunding campaign for her potential opponent.
“Sen. Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination,” spokeswoman Annie Clark said in a statement. “Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision-making whatsoever.”
Murkowski has been more tight-lipped about her decision-making process, and she is now facing additional pressure from Alaska natives, who are flooding her offices to urge her to oppose Kavanaugh over his views on fishing rights and environmental protections. Tribal communities were crucial to Murkowski’s re-election as an independent in 2010, after she lost the GOP primary to a tea party challenger.
Collins could face serious challenges from both the left and the right in 2020, making her decision on Kavanaugh a particularly high-stakes one. Celinda Lake, a leading pollster and Democratic strategist, warned that Collins will lose her credibility as a moderate if she votes to confirm Trump’s pick. The president’s popularity is declining in Maine, and independent voters there, on whom Collins relies for re-election, are “wildly in love” with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) ― who has indicated that he’ll vote against Kavanaugh.
“If she votes differently from Angus King, that puts her under pressure. That’s going to make her seem a lot less independent,” Lake told Huffpost. “And her safety has relied on her having a lot of strength with independent and Democratic women.”
Thus far, the ads from Planned Parenthood targeting Collins and Murkowski have been relatively positive, holding up both senators’ records in supporting women’s rights rather than threatening a negative response if they vote for Kavanaugh.
But negative marks from Planned Parenthood could damage Collins and Murkowski, and the family planning provider is planning to “score” the Senate’s vote on Kavanaugh. Planned Parenthood only endorses politicians who have a 100 percent rating on choice issues, so the group hasn’t endorsed Collins or Murkowski since 2010 and won’t again. But it did give Collins an award last year for her vote to protect President Barack Obama’s health care law, and it could turn around and use its massive political influence against her in 2020 if she votes the wrong way on Kavanaugh.
So far, however, the group has been relatively quiet on what it will do if Collins and Murkowski vote for the nominee.
“Senator Collins needs to listen to the women of Maine,” Planned Parenthood warned in a statement on Wednesday, “and continue to stand up for their most basic freedoms by opposing Brett Kavanaugh.”