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Political Brew analysts score first debate in Maine's U.S. Senate race a tie between Collins and Gideon

Who won the first debate in Maine's U.S. Senate race? Ranked Choice voting for president, and did President Trump fail the country on COVID-19 response?

MAINE, USA — Our Political Brew analysts this week are Ken Altshuler, long time co-host of the WGAN Morning News, and Ray Richardson of WLOB Radio.

The first debate in Maine's U.S. Senate race, hosted by NEWS CENTER Maine in partnership with The Portland Press Herald and The Bangor Daily News, is in the books.

Both Ken Altshuler and Ray Richardson scored it a tie between the Republican incumbent Susan Collins, and the Democratic challenger Sara Gideon.

"Sara had to look senatorial. I think she did," says Altshuler. "Susan Collins did what she should. 'I'm the incumbent, I have done things for the state of Maine and this is what I've done for you.'"

Richardson believes "Sen. Collins demonstrated why she's been there and what her experience has done for Maine."

He also thinks Gideon did well, but thinks she "fumbled" at the end by refusing to answer a question from Collins about whether Gideon would have voted to confirm Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Gideon had been pressing Collins about her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which sparked national efforts to defeat Collins this year.

As for the two independents in the race, our analysts agree that Lisa Savage was impressive.

Richardson, a conservative Republican, says the Green Independent Savage "was really thoughtful, and presented herself incredibly well."

And Altshuler, who leans left politically, found Savage "very impressive. I didn't know her, and I thought she came off very rational, very reasonable. She improved her stature."

But neither gives good grades to the other independent Max Linn.

Altshuler says Linn seemed "insane."

He says "Anybody who was thinking he's an independent and a maverick, another Donald Trump or Paul LePage, that was a horrible performance. He was obnoxious, he was rude. I think he lost any kind of support he had a hope of getting."

Richardson says if Linn was trying to perform like Trump, he failed, saying "Donald Trump always has a purpose, an agenda he's trying to get across. I have no idea what Max Linn's purpose is in this race."

As election day nears, an effort by Republicans to get a Peoples' Veto on the ballot in November has failed for now, so it is possible Maine will be using ranked choice voting in the presidential election.

Richardson opposes that system, and had hoped that there would be a resounding statement on the matter, given the large turnout expected in November. If the Maine Supreme Court eventually rules that the Peoples' Veto is valid, it won't appear on the ballot until next June.

Altshuler admits that as a practical matter, using ranked choice in the presidential race will have little impact, given that there are no serious third party candidates. But he says "It does make Maine first in the nation on ranked choice voting for the presidency, I think that's an interesting component in bringing Maine into the spotlight nationally."

Our analysts also talked about the new book by investigative journalist Bob Woodward, which reveals that President Trump knew about the seriousness of the coronavirus in early February, but downplayed that in public.

Altshuler says the president "was derelict in his duties as the leader of America to prepare us" for the pandemic.

But Richardson says there was more going on behind the scenes in the administration than most people know.

He says, "Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to the president, started holding meetings with her staff about Covid preparedness in the middle of January. The president shut down travel from China. They were taking steps."

Political Brew airs Sundays on The Morning Report.