AUGUSTA — Cruising Maine for the rest of the week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Susan M. Collins is looking for better performance on the road than the six miles-per-gallon she’ll get from her leased tour bus.
Convinced that her third-ranked position in the polls is narrowing as she closes in on independent candidate Angus King, Collins hopes to do a whole lot better than finishing second to Democratic nominee Joseph E. Brennan. She plans to win the race for the Blaine House.
The silver touring bus, on loan from the Portland Sea Dogs, left the State House parking lot Tuesday and will return the Caribou native to Aroostook County tonight for a 7 o’clock gubernatorial debate at WAGM-TV in Presque Isle.
Outfitted with a fax machine, photocopier, two computer systems and cellular phone, Collins’ bus is a mobile campaign office that will bring her face to face with the voters. Dubbed “The Collins Express,” the bus will also take the candidate to Penobscot, Washington, Hancock and York counties. She had been considering the tour for a few months, but a conversation with New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman at a recent fund-raising event in Portland convinced Collins the bus was the right way to go.
“We wanted to do something to give us a final boost and this was an economical way to see a lot of people and generate some excitement. I was telling (Whitman) that I couldn’t compete on television as far as running the number of ads that my opponents were able to run. She said the bus trip was what did it for her in the final two weeks.”
Collins was not alone in her plans to take to the highway. Independent candidate and Green Party representative Jonathan Carter is doing a car caravan called “The Green Wave”; Brennan is rumbling around in a Winnebago recreational vehicle; and King also has plans for a tour.
Collins said she is at her best during her personal meetings with Maine residents. She plans to use the opportunity to convince voters that she is their best bet for a better Maine in the next four years.
“I’m the only candidate who has pledged to reduce taxes by $100 million by rolling back a penny on the sales tax,” she said. “I’m also the only candidate who has been a consistent supporter of small business. I’m the only candidate who has pledged to cap the growth of state spending. Those are issues that people respond very positively to. This trip will help me highlight those messages in my travels through the state.”
Perceived as a long-shot candidate during the GOP primary, Collins impressed a number of Republicans during the last days of the campaign with a major rally that gave her a victory with 21 percent of the vote.