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Around the U.S. in 50 Days: Maine

Maine is one of those strange states in two senses. First, like Nebraska, they apportion their electoral votes by congressional district so it is possible to get a 3-1 split. Secondly, their law allow for redistricting to take effect in 2013. However, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. After the census, there was an 8,600 difference in population between the two districts. Democrats in West Virginia went to court claiming that similar population dynamics there violated the principle of one man-one vote and the courts agreed with them. Although the Supreme Court eventually issued a stay in that case in light of their Texas ruling, the complaints of the GOP mirrored those of the Democrats in West Virginia. In Maine, the courts ruled that the state must redistrict for 2012. Democrats then claimed that the Republicans merely wanted to increase Republican chances in the 2nd District. Well, duh!!!

The bottom line is that it really makes little difference. In 2008, Obama took 57% of the vote in Maine. His approval ratings in the state remain relatively high. In fact, in 2008 McCain managed to win only one central, sparsely populated county. The fact is that the electorate of Maine leans to the left and Obama should take their four electoral votes.

Which brings us to the Senate election of GOP incumbent Olympia Snowe. It behooves me as to why the Republican Party would seek to risk control of the Senate by going after an incumbent because of some silly moniker like RINO. What some people fail to get through their thick skulls is that a Republican from Maine is much different than a Republican from Wyoming. The ideological Republican stands very little chance of winning in New England at this time. Will a Tea Party insurgency to unseat Snowe really serve any purpose other than risking losing the Senate to Harry Reid? When the chips are down, is she the perfect Republican candidate in overall, national sense? Of course not! She has cast votes and staked out positions and made comments that I personally disagree with. But, people can point to this vote or that comment and disagree with Snowe, or any other politician. In the context of New England in general and Maine in particular, however, she is obviously a good fit as her electoral history has proven.

She will likely face two primary challengers in Scott D’Amboise and Andrew Ian Dodge. Both seem to be killing each other fighting for Tea Party backing rather than focusing on any Democrat or Obama, or even Snowe at this time. Perhaps, D’Amboise has made the most mistakes. First is his failure to raise money even though he has some people from Scott Brown’s campaign running his candidacy. In that race, Brown managed to win money nationwide, but similar enthusiasm is lacking for D’Amboise. So, he is left to unsubstantiated and personal attacks on Snowe and her husband, who happens to be a former Governor. On the other hand, we have Andrew Ian Dodge whose claim to fame is resurrecting his college’s debate team, forming a Young Republican club and being spokesman for the Maine Tea Party movement. Long on rhetoric, but short on specifics, he too has failed to catch on. The problem is that when both have managed to win some free media attention, both D’Amboise and Dodge have come out looking like kooks. Dodge even recently admitted that if he stands a chance of winning, he will have to scale back some of his Tea Party rhetoric. The point is that both may have over played the Tea Party hand, thus besmirching not only themselves, but the Tea Party name.

There is one certainty in Maine- the belief that Snowe may be vulnerable to a run from the left. Three Democrats have lined up for a run against Snowe. They are Matthew Dunlap, a former secretary of state who lost his reelection in 2010 and is an unabashed booster of the Obama stimulus. Also, state representative John Hinck is on the Democratic ballot. he happens to be a co-founder of the environmental group Greenpeace. Enough said there. Finally, there is state senator Cynthia Dill(weed) whose opening salvo against Snowe was classic #OWS class warfare attacks on Snowe’s personal wealth. Any of these Democrats running against Snowe would make Snowe look like a member of the John Birch Society. But ironically, anyone of these Democratic candidates running against D’Amboise or Dodge would likely either make the race dangerously close or they would win. Thankfully, neither D’Amboise nor Dodge have gained any traction.

At the House level, 1st District incumbent Chellie Pingree should win her reelection effort with ease. Thus far, only Patrick Calder has filed to run against her and has attacked her on the debt ceiling vote, although it appears he is taking a more moderate stance. He is at a decided money disadvantage at this point, but in a state the size of Maine in a rather small district, retail politics could compensate.

In the 2nd District, Democrat Michael Michaud also seeks reelection. He could be considered slightly more conservative than Pingree, reflecting his slightly more conservative district. His likely opponent will be state senator Kevin Page, who is term-limited. In 2002, Page lost to Michaud in a race that featured a pro-choice Republican against a pro-life Democrat. Activist Jason Levesque is also pursuing the GOP nod running on a platform of energy independence based upon the development of alternative energy sources. Thus, that is the state of conservatism in Maine.

Hence, there you have it in a nutshell regarding Maine politics and the risks the GOP takes should Snowe be defeated in a primary. Look at it this way in terms of electoral politics: she is the lesser of the evils and the one most likely to defeat any Democrat. D’Amboise and Dodge have no chance! When GOP challengers in House races are pro-choice or tree huggers, anyone who thinks D’Amboise or Dodge would win a general election are seriously delusional.

In the end, Snowe, Pingree and Michaud return to Washington. Obama claims Maine’s four electoral votes.

Running totals thus far:
Obama with 181 votes to 223 for the GOP;
Net gain of 2 Governors;
Net gain of 4 Senate seats;
Net loss of 8 House seats.

Next: Massachusetts

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