Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Olympia Snowe, Republican senator from Maine, decides not to seek re-election

How interesting is it that one of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate, Olympia Snowe from Maine, is not seeking re-election? 

The Washington Post had this to say:

In announcing her plans, Snowe, 65, emphasized that she is in good health and was prepared for the campaign ahead. But she said she was swayed by the increasing polarization in Washington.

"Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term," Snowe said in a statement. "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."

Snowe's retirement represents a major setback for the GOP's efforts to regain a majority in the Senate. As a moderate Republican, she may be the party's only hope to hold a seat in the strongly blue state.

According to the report, her announcement took the Republican leadership completely by surprise, noting that she had hired some heavyweight staff to help her in the campaign and that as late as Monday she had sent out an invitation for a fund-raiser.

Traditionally, Snowe has been one of the most moderate Republicans, though more and more, no doubt to fend off challenges from her right, she has been taking more conservative positions on a range issues. However, according to the just-released National Journal 2011 vote rankings, only her Republican Senate colleague, Susan Collins, also from Maine, voted with the Democrats more than Snowe.

In this strongly blue state, Snowe might have been the Republican's only chance to hold the seat, or as Nate Silver tweets, "We had estimated GOP's chances of holding Maine senate at 85% before. Maybe 20-30% now after Snowe retirement."

As important as that is, her decision not to run says volumes about how difficult it must be for moderate Republicans to maintain their sanity in the crazy world that is now the GOP. They are a dying breed, these moderates, and her decision reinforces the point that Washington is becoming more polarized by the day.

Perhaps she realized what she would have to become to secure her party's nomination, amidst claims from radical conservatives that she is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Or maybe she decided that the Republican Party she once knew no longer exists, and it just wasn't any fun banging her head against the wall.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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