Following an epically bad week, Donald Trump tried to change the conversation on Monday with a serious economic speech. It kind of worked — despite everyone hearing him say “titties” on live TV — but the Trump campaign took another hit tonight when Maine senator Susan Collins announced that she will not vote for Trump in November in a Washington Post op-ed. She explained that while she is a lifelong Republican, “Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country.”
The rest of the Maine senator’s piece is pretty scathing. She pointed to Trump’s “constant stream of denigrating comments,” such as his attacks on Senator John McCain and Fox News’s Megyn Kelly. “Rejecting the conventions of political correctness is different from
showing complete disregard for common decency,” she wrote. Collins said she hoped Trump might change once he became a general-election candidate, but he’s continued demonstrating a “lack of self-restraint” and has made a “barrage of ill-informed comments.” Now it’s become apparent that “regrettably, his essential character appears to be fixed, and he seems incapable of change or growth.”
Collins explained there were three incidents that drove her into the Never Trump camp: Trump mocking a reporter with disabilities, insisting that a federal judge could not be impartial due to his Mexican heritage, and attacking a Gold Star family. She wrote:
With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize. But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing — either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level — that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.
Collins has one of the most moderate voting records for a Republican senator, so ideologically, it’s not a surprise to see her join with GOP colleagues Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham, who have been crusading against Trump all along (though the latter may have wavered).
But Collins’s defection is significant because she has no immediate political motive for ditching her party’s nominee — and she still has something to lose. A number of the anti-Trump GOP lawmakers are up for reelection, including Illinois senator Mark Kirk, Florida representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, Illinois representatives Bob Dold and Adam Kinzinger, and Pennsylvania representative Charlie Dent. In the past week, two retiring congressmen, New York’s Richard Hanna and Virginia’s Scott Rigell have also said they will not back their party’s nominee.
Last week, the New York Times reported that “Republican lawmakers and strategists have begun to entertain abandoning [Trump] en masse,” and while the vast majority of Republican leaders still support Trump, there have been several high-profile defections in recent weeks. Meg Whitman, the Hewlett-Packard CEO, and Hank Paulson, the former treasury secretary, both said they will support Clinton. Earlier on Monday, 50 Republican national-security officials signed a letter saying they will not vote for Trump because he “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being” and “would be the most reckless president in American history.” (Trump dismissed them as the “failed Washington elite” and blamed them, along with Clinton, for “the disastrous decisions to invade Iraq, allow Americans to die in Benghazi, and they are the ones who allowed the rise of ISIS.”)
The 50 officials have not committed to voting for Clinton (Collins said she does not support either of the major party candidates). So while this is still good news for the Democratic nominee, it’s great news for the just-launched candidacy of unknown Never Trump standard-bearer Evan McMullin.
A previous version of this post suggested that Senator Collins had not ruled out supporting Clinton. We regret the error.