Both Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin continue to hold back on supporting presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Collins said Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention was an improvement over his past efforts, but not enough to win her endorsement at this point.

“I felt that his speech was one of the better speeches he has given. He focused less on himself and more on what the wanted to do for the country,” Maine’s senior senator said in a telephone interview Saturday.

But, Collins said, Trump’s speech accepting the party’s presidential nomination didn’t hold a candle to those made by his children.

“Their speeches were terrific and set the right tone,” she said. “His speech could have been more positive in its outlook.”

Collins spoke about the Republican convention and several issues dear to her heart Saturday as she rode to Georgetown to celebrate the Sagadahoc County town’s 300th birthday.


Collins spent Sunday through Tuesday in Cleveland, where the party held its convention. She then had to leave to make back-to-back appointments in Maine, including a ceremony to mark the display of a portrait of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell – who served as a U.S. District judge in Maine in 1979 and 1980 – at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor on Wednesday, a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald on Thursday and a tour of Nappi Distributors in Gorham on Friday.

The two Republican members of the Maine’s congressional delegation – Collins and Poliquin – have yet to endorse their party’s presidential nominee. While Collins has spoken several times about her indecision, Poliquin has refused to answer questions about a Trump endorsement, prompting criticism from Emily Cain, his Democratic opponent in the November election for his 2nd District seat.

On Saturday, Collins said that Trump redeemed himself to some extent with his acceptance speech, but on Friday, when he lashed out at Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, he appeared to be “going back to more of a style he had in the primaries, and that is not what I wanted him to do.”

Collins said Trump strikes a chord with people who have lost their jobs because of trade agreements, and she agreed with the parts of his speech that raised questions about American trade policies. She said she liked his reference to “one America” and that he wanted to be the voice of America.

A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Collins said she agreed with Trump’s dire assessment of the state of national and international security.

“I agree with his assessment that the president’s strategy towards Libya was a mistake. He is right with his indictment of President Obama’s policy, or lack thereof, in dealing with ISIS,” she said, referring to the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State.


She said she hopes Trump will now go forward to outline his vision for America, articulate specific polices and make the case for why he and Gov. Michael Pence of Indiana, his vice presidential running mate, should be the leaders of the United States. But she is not ready to endorse him and said she is in no hurry.

Meanwhile, she said, she will be following the campaign closely and watching the debates. “I don’t feel pressure to adhere to anybody else’s timetable in making my decision. Like many Americans, I am struggling with my choices.”


Brent Littlefield, a political consultant for Poliquin, would not comment on Trump’s speech when contacted Friday and referred instead to a statement released by the campaign several weeks ago that talks about “one candidate” but does not name Trump.

He also accused MaineToday Media – publishers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel – of trying to “create news” and “playing politics” in reporting on Poliquin’s stance on the issue.

“To say he had no comment on the presidential race or is avoiding comment, that’s absolutely not true,” Littlefield said. “He’s provided a comment repeatedly on the presidential race, and just because the paper doesn’t like the comment, or doesn’t like the fact that the comment was issued two months ago or six weeks ago or three hours ago, is irrelevant.”


The statement released to the Morning Sentinel on July 6 says it’s “critical the next president of the United States is helpful in creating jobs and growing the economy” and that “only one candidate now has been a major job creator.”

It also refers to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement that has been criticized by Maine shoe manufacturer New Balance as threatening jobs in Maine, and says that “only one candidate” shares the concerns of Maine people in regard to free trade agreements.

Littlefield would not say Trump’s name Friday when asked whether the statement refers to him. “There are only two candidates on the ballot and it says there’s only one job creator. I don’t think it will be difficult for any voter to figure out who the phrasing is referring to,” Littlefield said.

Poliquin did not attend the Republican National Convention and spent the last several days touring local businesses in the 2nd District and speaking in Lewiston on a proposed welfare reform bill aimed at stopping drug dealers from trafficking in electronic benefit transfer – or EBT – cards.

On Wednesday, the day after Trump’s nomination was officially announced at the convention, Poliquin was at a tour of Tasman Leather Group’s Hartland factory and would not answer several questions about his nomination, including whether he supports Trump. “I don’t get involved in the presidential election. They’re doing that in Cleveland,” Poliquin said.



Collins said Saturday she will continue to focus on the issues she cares about, such as transportation improvements and homelessness among veterans and teenagers. She said she recently secured $40 million for programs to help the 2 million homeless youths in the U.S., with the goal of funding programs such as Lewiston’s New Beginnings shelter. She is also working with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to return $57 million in funding to a housing voucher program for veterans that in its first four years cut veteran homelessness by a third.

The program went unfunded by the Obama administration this year. The Senate passed a bill, 89-8, to refund the program. The measure is now before the House, which Collins said will probably vote on it in September.

Collins also is focused on obtaining more funding for transportation projects in Maine, including a bridge in Washington County and more improvements to Portland’s container shipping infrastructure.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Rachel Ohm contributed to this report.


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