To everyone’s immense surprise, which in my case bordered on utter slack-jawed astonishment, Sen. Susan Collins announced this week that she would not be supporting Donald Trump, the nominee of the party in which she holds membership.

Well, yes, I exaggerate a tiny bit. OK, a lot.

Despite the lead stories in every paper and on every newscast, and the Washington Post column she wrote that was reprinted here, the idea that this was unexpected was never part of the equation.

Indeed, it would have been far more newsworthy if she had endorsed Trump. That would have been a real shocker, well worth a ton of ink and millions of broadcast pixels.

After all, he ran a complete primary campaign precisely as much in opposition to Republican grandees as to Democratic elites, focusing on what tons of voters viewed as grossly underperforming Pachyderm Party leadership.

Republicans won two majorities in Congress – the House in 2010 and both House and Senate in 2014 – by promising voters they would stand between them and the Obama steamroller. How did that work out?

We all know the answer: Obamacare continues to raise rates and lose insurers; jihadists rage across Europe, killing hundreds; both “lone wolves” and “known wolves” (people under surveillance, but not deterred by it) shoot up U.S. sites; a president who got the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after his election disbanded our Iraq peacekeepers and now bombs the Islamic State futilely trying to fix what he broke; the Environmental Protection Agency is choking our least costly power producers (and the thousands of jobs they support) to death; and the economy bumps along at historically low growth rates for a purported “recovery,” leaving most of the middle class behind.

So a Collins endorsement was probably never on Trump supporters’ wish lists, and it seems unlikely that anyone inclined to vote for Trump is going to be influenced by her disavowal.

In fact, they were likely wondering not if Collins would vote for Trump, but if he would want her support.

It is worth noting, though, that Collins also said that she had serious disagreements with Hillary Clinton, claiming there is “little to like” about her.

And she later said she was not planning to vote for either major-party candidate in November.

I understand her position. It’s got to be hard – even for a relative liberal like Collins – to see someone so disdainful of many traditional party stands take the wheel of the SS Party of Lincoln.

Nevertheless, Collins is one of her party’s most senior officials, so why has she not spoken out as directly and forcefully about Clinton’s disqualifications for the presidency as she has about Trump’s?

She is currently 19th in seniority among all senators and 10th among Republicans, and thus can be expected to carry weight in party councils.

She did give a Maine radio interviewer a few criticisms of Clinton this week, and said she would consider writing in Jeb Bush’s name on the ballot. But that’s hardly the same as a major Washington Post column listing Clinton’s manifold flaws, failures, falsehoods and felonies.

If tossing away the only real top-of-the-ticket choice she has is really what the 10th most senior Republican senator thinks is the best option for herself, why shouldn’t she lay out the full reasons so we all can profit from her conclusions?

Surely a detailed column condemning Clinton would be a public service at the same level of worthiness as her extensive condemnation of Trump. If both are unfit, why leave any doubt that she considers both equivalently awful?

POLLS

Trump is consistently running behind Clinton in nearly all major polls (although there’s been some recent tightening – Bloomberg had the gap at just 4 points this week).

Still, if a big shortfall continues into the autumn, his campaign will be in real trouble. But it’s too early to say that.

Part of the reason is that, historically, equal or greater summertime deficits have been overcome by candidates.

And we simply do not know what events may cast the campaign in a different light.

A new dump of Clinton emails (such as Judicial Watch’s release this week of State Department messages showing a suspicious pay-to-play deal with a billionaire Clinton Foundation donor) could make a difference.

So could a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, or another foreign policy disaster, or a deeper economic downturn. Who knows what voters would do then?

But if Trump’s this far behind in October, then conclusions can be drawn. Or, if he’s ahead by the same amount (insert smiley-face emoji here).

My guess – and that’s what it is – is that the race will tighten, becoming too close to call by November. But despite all the unhatched-chicken-counting going on here, there and everywhere, nobody really knows.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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