OK

The next news cycle on Maine Senate campaigns' fundraising
(through the period ending this evening March 31)
has only a few ways it can go --€“
none of them great for incumbent Republican Susan Collins:

Headlines on Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows' second quarter of fundraising
(if Bellows' multiplying endorsers and supporters are making a final push to chip in contributions)
will predictably be along the following lines:

“Unknown challenger
attracts even more contributions
as she becomes known.”
There are two possible headlines on incumbent Collins:
1.      “Incumbent’s quarterly fundraising again beaten by upstart challenger”,

        or

2.    “Incumbent massively expands massive war-chest”.

See below the jump for more on:
•    these headlines' consequences, and
•    how (and how effectively) the money can be spent.

Collins would prefer the second headline, but there is such a thing as

a candidate having "too much” money
(See: Mitt Romney, Meg Whitman, etc.),

...especially an incumbent like Collins who already had more than $3 million on hand (in a small state with cheap media market) at the end of 2013.  

Of course this news cycle will pass quickly, and attention will shift to how, and how effectively, both candidates' money is spent.

Spending much more than $3 million in a small non-flashy state tends to yield rapidly diminishing returns, but the first question is:

can the incumbent’s spending of $1 or $2 million knock out the young challenger?
There are two main kinds of advertising Collins' money can buy: positive and negative.

Collins's benefits from positive advertising are limited as follows:

•    The swing voters who have previously supported Collins think they already know who she is, so Collins can’t gain much by spending lots of money talking about herself.

•    Little that any advertisement could say about Collins would be more beneficial to her than swing voters’ previous vague perception that Collins is moderate and familiar.

•    Most specific votes and positions that Collins might highlight would be an invitation for Bellows to direct the media and the voters to the ways in which Collins’ votes and positions are “too little and too late” in comparison with the current and trending policy preferences of most Mainers.

Collins' can effectively spend much more money on negatively attacking challenger Bellows, but this type of spending:
•    Raises the challenger’s name recognition and further undermines the incumbent’s aura of inevitability;

•    Surrenders the “nice” and “victim” cards that Collins has played in prior elections;

•    Enables Bellows to retain a “nice” image even while counter-attacking.

Collins could spend on carrots and sticks to obtain endorsements from local Democrats, but this is a difficult time to emphasize such an approach, as each week’s national news reveals more about its use and abuse by Chris Christie in New Jersey. Some spending on this by Collins would be logical and probably productive, but Bellows can keep it’s consequences to a minimum it by making so much more progress in the coming weeks that most Democrats grow ashamed to openly endorse her Republican opponent.

Alternatively Collins could spend the money training field workers (separate from Senate constituent services offices) in Maine’s many small towns -- like Shenna Bellows is doing. But:

What messages will Collins' workers deliver?

•    How easy is it to train a large number of field workers to talk up positions that have been designed and tweaked for 18 years less for the purpose of clarifying or resolving issues than for the purpose of generating a vague image of (ever-more Right-straddling) moderation?

•    How can Collins' workers respond to the obvious question of why Collins' "moderation" has endlessly failed to stop Republicans' gallop away from moderation and constructiveness?

The other thing field workers can do is subordinate issues to simple loyalty and turnout, through canvassing, reminders to vote, and assisting voting logistics like filling out forms and travelling to polling stations. That’s the kind of trench warfare that wins an election marathon, which Bellows' quick start and persistence can force Collins into running.

Each time Collins' original polling edge narrows

•    this narrowing will energize and multiply Bellows' campaign workers, and

•    the growing risk of losing might demoralize some of Collins' campaign workers;

•    in any case, Collins is not going to find it easy to

pivot from 18 years of “nice and safe”,
to 6 months of “productive, exciting and worth trench-fighting for”,
...no matter how much money she spends.
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