Snowe Shocker, w/Maine and national meanings

An open Senate seat in Maine?

Senator Snowe’s announcement that she won’t be running for re-election is big national news and huge news in Maine.

Assuming the Democratic field remains as is, fundraising is going to get a whole lot easier for the current candidates – and for any others who may announce.

I continue to believe that Democrats have an easier chance of winning state-wide with a candidate from the second congressional district. Of the current candidates, Matt Dunlap has the best chance to win.  As I wrote when he declared, he has cultural and political links to that district.

Of course, other Democratic candidates may jump in. If Congressman Michaud does so — and it is being reported that he is considering doing so — he would be a very strong candidate. This might lead Matt Dunlap to run for Michaud’s seat instead.

And a well-known independent, such as Mr. Cutler, may run.

On the Republican side, the party was pretty split for the 2010 governor’s race and schisms remain between the Establishment Republicans who backed Romney and other elements of the party. That said, the candidate most able to win is someone who can credibly claim to be a Snowe Republican.

Snowe herself goes out at a time when she was politically very strong. Her voting record had been drifting right, as she was increasingly wed to a Republican party that itself was fleeing to the right. But that rightward movement protected herself from a credible primary challenger. Given how little media attention this shift received, as Snowe leaves, she will enter into Mainers’ memories as a consistent independent and as someone who earned great respect for her civility and thoughtfulness.

One more thing: From the point of view of national politics, one thing to consider is how this decision will be reported in terms of what it says about the Republican party. Although Senator Snowe’s statement said she was leaving because politics was becoming polarized, there is no doubt that the party’s movement to the right left her more isolated than before.

Two years ago, a colleague of mine and I wrote about the persistence of the Senators Snowe and Collins as emblematic of a Maine exceptionalism (see pdf: Douglas Harris and Amy Fried. 2010. Maine’s Political Warriors: Senators Snowe and Collins, Congressional Moderates in a Partisan Era.  New England Journal of Political Science 4: 95-129.)  Although the Tea Party did not threaten Snowe’s renomination in Maine, it made the party a less comfortable place for a New England moderate Republican.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.