Let me just say right off the bat – I have no insight into whether or not Sen. Susan Collins plans to run for governor in 2018.

No “for your eyes only” memos have been slipped under my door late at night. I didn’t find the senator’s diary in a trash can. I never overheard her team arguing strategy at the next table in a restaurant.

I come by my opinion honestly, innocent of any facts that might confuse me.

That said, I predict that she’s staying in the Senate and will not run for governor.

It’s been a fun few months, though. I’ve had hours of conversations with people who are just as ignorant as I am about what the senator is thinking, but are much smarter than me when it comes to the way politics works.

I’ve talked to Republicans, Democrats and independents, and I’ve changed my own mind enough to argue everything both ways.

During this deliberation, I’ve noted wide agreement on two points:

Collins can’t lose an election in November.

She’d have a tough time winning one in June.

That’s when the Republican primary is held, and the kind of voters who show up for primaries would probably not include the moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats who mark the arrow next to Collins’ name when it’s on the ballot in her Senate campaigns.

If she were the Republican nominee for governor, Election Day would be a formality. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap could call it off and save the state some money, which could be used for the coronation … err, I mean inauguration.

But she couldn’t get on the ballot for the general election without slogging through a Republican primary, and that would mean spending the next year or so getting lambasted for everything done by government since she started opening the mail in then-Congressman Bill Cohen’s office during the Nixon era.

She might still win, but she would first have to defend a long career of public service as if it were something to be ashamed of. That leaves scars. Ask Libby Mitchell.

The fact that so many people believe that a lifelong Republican with nearly 70 percent approval ratings would have a hard time getting her party’s nomination tells you something important about that party.

It’s gotten angrier. It’s gotten meaner. It’s gotten more like Paul LePage.

Republicans like to point out that John Baldacci is the only Democrat to win a statewide election in 30 years, and the last Democrat to win more than 50 percent of the vote in a statewide race was George Mitchell in 1988.

But they don’t like to talk about how many Republican statewide winners of the past could be nominated by their party today.

If Collins can’t win a primary these days, could her old boss Cohen, who also is a former secretary of defense?

What about Olympia Snowe, a three-term U.S. senator?

Or John McKernan, a two-term governor? All four were pro-choice, favored environmental protection and broke with the party’s right wing at times. Could any of them get through the Republican ideological gantlet today?

If you eliminate Cohen, Snowe, McKernan and Collins, Republican dominance in statewide elections is less impressive. The only Republican left standing would be Paul LePage.

The party has moved to the right, and some will argue that the Democrats have moved to the left, too. While that’s partly true, the move has been nowhere near as dramatic. This isn’t a pox-on-both-your-houses situation: What’s going on in the Maine Republican Party is different.

Here’s a test: If George Mitchell were to decide to come out of retirement today and run for his old seat in the Senate, does anyone doubt that he could win a Democratic primary?

The anti-government blood-lust in Republican politics just gets stronger, even as the Republicans run the government.

Collins’ sin is that she’s a moderate problem-solver. That’s apparently not what the party is looking for these days.

Collins and the Republicans could still make me look foolish (it’s not that hard). She could announce her candidacy Friday and then win an easy primary victory next spring.

This is one where I wouldn’t mind being wrong, because that would mean people are not as angry and divided as they look from where I sit.

But I still think she stays put in Washington, and that Paul LePage Republicans will dominate Maine politics for a long time.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: gregkesich

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.