Back in 2016, Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins took a tough stand against GOP nominee Donald Trump, calling him “unworthy of being our president” and declaring she would not vote for him.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, enters to hear testimony from Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, before a closed-door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 26 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

On Election Day, she said she wrote in House Speaker Paul Ryan as her choice for the nation’s top job.

At the time, Collins wrote in a widely publicized op-ed in The Washington Post that Trump’s “essential character appears to be fixed, and he seems incapable of growth or change,” a person “who will slash and burn and trample anything and anyone he perceives as being in his way or an easy scapegoat.”

Now, though, Maine’s senior senator will not say whether she will endorse Trump in 2020 or stand by her earlier opposition.

“I need to be able to work with this administration,” she said Wednesday. “I’m not a political pundit. I’m a senator.”

She said she based her thoughts about Trump in 2016 “on his performance during the campaign,” which left her cold.

“But despite my opposition, Donald Trump became our president. And I respect that,” said Collins, who has served in the Senate since 1997.

She said many of the president’s critics “don’t accept” he is the president, like it or not.

For Collins, it is a necessity “to have a working relationship” with Trump because he is important to her ability to serve Maine, she said.

That does not mean she has to approve of everything the president does, she added, pointing to her vote to preserve the Affordable Care Act in 2017, oppose some cabinet choices and more.

“So obviously there are serious issues where I disagree” with Trump, Collins said.

She said, though, there are other areas where she agrees with, from the need for more infrastructure spending to the necessity of “rebuilding our Navy,” a matter of crucial importance to Bath Iron Works and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that together provide 10,000 jobs to the region.

Collins said Trump is also correct in his assertion that many trade agreements struck by previous presidents “were not good” for the country and hurt Maine workers.

Collins, who is almost certainly seeking re-election in 2020, said maintaining decent ties to Trump helps her in many ways.

She pointed, for example, to a glitch in the Coast Guard’s payroll system that would have prevented its personnel from receiving pay for work done before the government’s Christmastime shutdown.

She said when learned of the problem, she immediately phoned the White House to alert it to the situation and express her opinion that it would be “grossly unfair” to the Coast Guard to withhold pay.

Five hours later, Collins said, she got a call back that said: “You’re right. We fixed it.”

“If I have no relationship with the White House,” Collins said, “I’m not going to be able to make real victories like that.”

Yet Collins has not been willing to endorse Trump, a step the president would clearly like to see.

After U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican who opposed Trump’s election in 2016, endorsed the president’s re-election bid in January, Trump offered a response on Twitter hailing Gardner and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who also backed Trump.

Trump praised them both “for the early and warm endorsement. We will ALL WIN in 2020 together!”

No doubt Trump would like to see Collins follow suit.

But the Maine senator said it is “a long way ’til 2020,” and there is no reason to rush.

“I’m not going to make a decision on what is a very fluid situation until that time,” Collins said.

She said she wants to see what happens in the months ahead so she can “evaluate his record” when the election is much closer at hand.

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