The species known as the moderate Republican seemed to move one step closer to extinction on Tuesday when Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced that she will not run for reelection this year.
“After an extraordinary amount of reflection and consideration, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate,” Snowe said in a statement on the Maine Republican Party’s Facebook page.
Snowe’s surprise announcement that she will not seek a fourth term has dramatic resonance. As one of the last of the truly moderate Republicans, Snowe is part of a breed that’s disappearing from Congress. Her vacating a seat in a state that has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992 greatly strengthens the Democrats’ chances of holding on to the Senate, and it gives strategists at the National Republican Senatorial Committee reason to cry in their beers.
GOP officials in Washington were given little notice by Snowe of her decision. One senior GOP source said Snowe only informed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the NRSC chair, of her decision this afternoon. She had more than $3 million in the bank and was on cruise control in her reelection bid, giving Republicans no reason to believe that she was heading toward a retirement.
This is bad news for Republican hopes in winning back the Senate this fall. A race that was a sure thing for them has now turned into a competitive race which they will have to spend time and money defending. This is a very real chance for the Democrats to pick up a Senate seat in New England. President Obama will win the state in the fall, but the fact it’s a presidential year means that more of the die hard voters and activists will turn out. By riding Obama’s coattails, the Democratic nominee could go over the top and win the Senate race. It’s not a sure thing though – keep in mind Maine currently has a Republican governor.