Snowe Quits Race
In what can only be described as an absolutely shocking development, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe has announced that she will end her race for re-election.
Snowe has been a cornerstone of Maine politics for decades, serving three terms in the Senate and in the House and State Legislature before that.
Snowe had given no previous indication of her plans and, in fact, the outlook on her political future only a few hours ago was considered incredibly bright.
Snowe had been tacking to the right and seemed to have successfully marginalized her Tea Party opponents. Several polls showed her maintaining a consistent lead over both Andrew Ian Dodge and Scott D'Amboise and, with crossover support, likely trouncing a Democratic opponent in November.
Yes, Dodge had recently dropped out of the primary, perhaps allowing conservative support to coalesce behind D'Amboise, but that shouldn't have been too much of a worry for Snowe. In addition to her high favorability ratings, her campaign had been diligently raising a warchest worth millions, far beyond what D'Amboise or any of her likely Democratic opponents would have been able to amass and almost certainly enough to keep her in Washington.
In a letter explaining her decision, Snowe said that the decision was not political or for health reasons but was made because she didn't want to continue to contend with the level of polarization in Washington.
"Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail," wrote Snowe.
This is surprising considering that only days ago Snowe toured Republican caucus sites and seemed to revel in partisanship.
"Regardless of who the nominee is, come 2013 we will have a Republican back in the White House," Snowe said, as noted by the Bangor Daily News. "We must pull out all the stops to ensure President Barack Obama is a one-term president."
Whatever the reasons for it, the reverberations of Snowe's decision will be felt across the country. The Maine U.S. Senate contest has just become one of the top-tier races in the nation and it may end up determining control of the Senate. We can expect a huge amount of money and attention to be focused on our corner of the country.
The March 15 filing deadline for the primary is quickly approaching. Expect to see absolute bedlam among the political classes of both parties in Maine as candidates have to make rapid decisions on whether to seek the seat. If politicians currently holding other offices in Maine join the race, as they almost certainly will, the effects will be even more widespread.