It's Lonely in The Middle

Maine's Susan Collins is one of only four solidly moderate Senate Republicans

Susan Collins had to change lunch tables. When the Maine Republican entered the Senate in 1997, she joined a group of five Republican moderates who lunched together every Wednesday. But one of them died in 1999, and in 2001 Vermont's Jim Jeffords fell out with the G.O.P. and became an independent. The lunch club got so small it soon disbanded, and Collins now occasionally eats with the Republican Steering Committee, a group of strongly conservative Republicans that has ballooned in membership. "I wanted to find out what they were saying and remind them of another view," Collins said.

If Collins, 52, is...

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