In the wake of surprisingly strong fourth quarter fundraising numbers from Shenna Bellows--the first time candidate beat three-term incumbent Sen. Susan Collins in total funds raised; received almost eight times as many donations as Collins; and reported having raised 80% of her money from Maine compared to 32% for Collins this cycle (according to the most recently published figures)--the Collins camp has launched the first negative attack of the campaign.
Specifically, in a letter to the editor, on Twitter and in a subsequent Tumblr post too silly and egregious to link to, Maine GOP Executive Director Jason Savage worked to downplay the significance of Bellows's numbers, raise doubts about the strength of her grassroots momentum and, improbably, portray her as a tool of big money donors.
That his attacks were built on baseless allegations and (deliberately?) false premises is really beside the point. (Though it's hard not to wonder where this sort of misleading blitz fits into Collins's campaign to restore civility to American politics.)
The real news gleaned from Savage's attack is what it reveals about the Collins campaign.
Namely, Collins and her team clearly think Maine's senior senator is vulnerable to being seen as an out-of-touch beltway insider. And it's not hard to figure out why: When you try to ride a wave of high dollar contributions to your fourth term in office--amassing a $3 million war chest from lobbyist-hosted DC fundraisers, corporate PACs and other influence-seekers--it becomes somewhat tricky to make the case that you're a Woman of the People.
Particularly if you recoiled at the idea of participating in the money-for-access merry-go-round when you first went to Washington.
In the absence of a politically defensible explanation for that kind of evolution, the Collins camp is responding by working to tear Bellows down, to neutralize whatever political advantages her strong grassroots showing provides.
It's an understandable political calculation--you might even call it predictable given Collins's history of brass knuckle politics. But it's not an especially ennobling one.