AUGUSTA — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she’s not sure where the rumors are starting, but it isn’t with her.

Maine’s senior senator, in Augusta on Wednesday to receive The Spirit of Enterprise award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for her leadership on business issues, addressed what many in the room were wondering: whether she is really on Donald Trump’s short list of vice presidential candidates.

She was mentioned as a possible running mate in a recent New York Times article.

“I have never met Donald Trump,” she said at the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon celebrating female leaders in the Kennebec valley, which drew more than 80 business people, mostly women. “We have very different styles and we have very different approaches,” she said, earning laughter from the room.

While it’s flattering to be identified by pundits as a possible running mate, she said, she’s not waiting by the phone.

Collins broke the news to the crowd that Ohio Gov. John Kasich was expected to end his presidential bid a day after Trump handily defeated both Sen. Ted Cruz — who also has abandoned his presidential bid — and Kasich in Tuesday’s Indiana primary.

Trump is now the last man standing in the Republican presidential race.

Collins said it’s now clear that Trump has a lot of work to do to pull Republicans together.

“He has to knock off the gratuitous personal insults,” she said.

He has some ideas that are worth pursuing, and he needs to articulate them, she said.

When asked if she would support or endorse Trump, Collins released a statement saying she won’t make that decision until the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.

“I have always supported the Republican nominee for president and I would expect that I would do so this year, but I do want to see what Donald Trump does from here on out,” she said. “I hope he will take the kinds of steps that I’ve said. I think we’re going to see a new stage of this campaign as it starts to go into the general election. So, I’m going to wait and see — I’m certainly going to wait until Cleveland.”

Recently, Trump has said Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s success in the Democratic presidential contest stems from the fact that she’s a woman and if she were a man, she wouldn’t be in the race.

“The only card she has is the woman card,” Trump has said.

In an interview, Collins said she doesn’t like that phrase, because it demeans the contributions of women in a variety of fields.

“Hillary Clinton was a colleague of mine in the Senate,” Collins said. “She’s not my candidate for president, but we worked well together in the Senate.”

Saying Clinton has played the “woman card” demeans her effectiveness and her abilities, she said.

Collins also told the crowd at the Senator Inn & Spa that she has also been identified in The Boston Globe as a possible running mate for Clinton.

“It has the been the strangest political year,” she said. She came out in support of Jeb Bush early in the contest and campaigned twice for him in New Hampshire, “to little noticeable effect,” she said.

She also would not have guessed that Sen. Bernie Sanders would be defeating Clinton in primaries as recently as Tuesday, when he bested Clinton in Indiana.

In her speech, Collins was full of praise for the accomplishments of women leaders in the Kennebec valley region and in Maine as a whole. She cited a recently released study by American Express, which found that between 2007 and 2016, Maine led the nation in percentage of revenue growth by women-owned firms. During that time, revenue from women-owned businesses in Maine grew by 214 percent, from $3.5 million to $11 million. And while the number of U.S. women-owned businesses increased by 9 percent in that nine-year period, the number of Maine women-owned businesses increased by 45 percent.

Collins highlighted legislation that she has co-authored or worked on to bring tax relief and a sense of certainty to business owners, and she also talked about another of her priorities — the Senate Special Committee on Aging. She sought the chairmanship because issues affecting seniors are important to Maine, which has the highest median age of any state in the country.

Collins took questions from the crowd, on tax policy, the Affordable Care Act and the value of compromise.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to have Sen. Collins recognize the successful women leaders in our region, but also to see her recognized for her support of small business efforts on a national level,” said Ross Cunningham, chamber president and CEO.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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