Speculation Begins Over Snowe's Chances and Challengers
Thanks to Public Policy Polling, we now have our first numbers comparing Snowe to actual challengers in the 2012 primary. While the numbers don't look so good for D'amboise and Dodge, her two announced Tea Party opponents, the overall discontent within the Republican electorate points towards a window of opportunity for a more well-known Republican challenger.
PPP's survey of 434 "usual Maine Republican primary voters" found Snowe with a 47% approval rating and receiving only 33% of the vote against an unnamed "more conservative challenger, who garnered 58%. The poll has a margin of error of +/-4.7%, 95 times out of 100.
Compared to her announced opponents, however, Snowe still came out ahead. She received 43% of the vote, compared to D'Amboise's 18% and Dodge's 10% in a direct match-up, with 28% undecided. Despite D'Amboise's prior run for office and Dodge's Tea Party-based bombast, both challengers were found to be relatively unknown within the population surveyed.
These numbers appear to show that a successful challenge will require a candidate who has enough connections, charisma, and cash to pull the anti-Snowe vote together.
D.C.-based Hotline on Call thinks that person might be former Senate Minority Leader Carol Weston. Weston now serves as state director for the Koch-backed organization Americans for Prosperity. From Hotline:
"I've worked with Senator Snowe in many different ways and I served in the House and the Senate here in Maine and certainly now in my job with Americans for Prosperity I do reign [sic] in and lobby her, and over the years I have found there are times when we certainly do disagree," said Weston. "But I also want to make sure that whoever may run against her in a primary will also have the financial support and the backing of the Maine people to win the general election. And that's something that needs some careful consideration by anyone considering running."
And Weston says she's not in that consideration phase yet.
"I'm certainly not saying absolutely not, but I certainly am being honest when I say it is not on my radar screen right now," she said.
Some other names floated in the piece: State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, oil company president Jinger Duryea, Maine Heritage Policy Center CEO Tarren Bragdon, and Rep. Paul Davis.
Weston may have some added personal incentive to run against Snowe. She lost her leadership post in the Senate in 2008 to Sen. Kevin Raye, who once served as Snowe's Chief of Staff.
Another D.C. publication, Roll Call, is already looking ahead to the 2012 general election, and notes that House Minority Leader Emily Cain of Orono hasn't ruled out making the race.
"I don’t think that will probably happen," Cain is quoted as saying in the piece. "Mostly because I have a lot of work I’m focused on at the state level. There seems to be no doubt that Sen. Snowe will run for that seat. It’s also not a secret that she’d be tough for anybody to beat."