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Baker Backs Fellow Republican Susan Collins As Maine Senate Race Heats Up

BOSTON (CBS/CNN) - In the midst of Maine's contested Senate rate, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has thrown his support behind fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins over Democratic challenger Sara Gideon.

Baker voiced his support for Collins in a new 15-second ad that was released on Friday, highlighting her willingness to work across party lines and serve as an independent representative of her state in the Senate.

"As governor of Massachusetts, I work with both parties to get things done. Susan Collins does that in the Senate," Baker says in his ad. "She's pro-environment, pro-women, pro-Maine. We need more leaders like Susan. I hope you reelect her."

Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was also featured in a separate new ad supporting Collins, calling her "exactly the kind of independent, thoughtful and effective leader that we desperately need in the Senate."

Collins has well below 50% support in a pair of new polls released this week, showing just how precarious her reelection bid is weeks before voters decide her political fate in the toughest campaign of her career.

Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon currently holds 49% to the senator's 44%, according to a new poll released Friday from The New York Times and Siena College, results that are within the poll's sampling error margin. The survey's finding is far tighter than a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showing Gideon with a wide, 54% to 42% advantage over Collins.

The polls underscore how high the stakes are for Collins with just under 50 days until the election. Her race is regarded as one of the most competitive Senate races this cycle. The senator's expensive competition against Gideon could prove to be a make-or-break moment for her four-term career in the chamber.

Given their positions in more liberal leaning states, both Hogan and Baker occupy a particular spot in national Republican politics. Hogan has made headlines throughout Donald Trump's presidency for breaking with or publicly clashing with the president -- particularly on the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Baker has also publicly criticized Trump, and one poll over the summer found that 89% of likely Democratic primary voters in Massachusetts approve of the job Baker is doing.

Collins and Gideon faced off during a debate in Maine last week in which the senator said Trump "should have been straightforward with the American people" about the threat from the coronavirus. When Gideon challenged Collins on who she thinks should be "leading the country," the senator did not answer, saying the Maine people don't need her advice.

Maine will be using ranked choice voting in this year's Senate contest. There are two independent candidates running for the Senate seat in addition to Collins and Gideon. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, votes from the fourth place candidate would be reallocated to their second choice candidate, and then from the third place candidate, if needed, until one candidate has more than 50% support. Both polls suggest Gideon is closer to hitting that mark than Collins.

Running for reelection in a state Trump narrowly lost in 2016, Collins is balancing the need to appeal to the president's base -- whom she also needs to turn out for her -- against not further alienating moderate and independent voters. The New York Times and Siena College poll also showed a Democratic upper hand in the presidential election, with former Vice President Joe Biden holding a wide 55% to 38% lead over Trump among Maine voters.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN's Devan Cole contributed to this report.)

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