Republican Kevin Raye, who served as chief of staff to Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, may try to return to Capitol Hill with a bid for the 2nd district in 2012.
Webster mentioned Raye and businessman Jason Levesque, who lost to Michaud in 2010, as potential candidates. He also hinted there might be some candidates with "significant money" on the horizon, depending on how the redistricting process plays out.
A bipartisan line-drawing committee is slated to submit its map by the end of August. The Legislature is expected to come into special session in September to vote on the plan, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage. That means Republicans will need some Democratic votes. If the Legislature becomes deadlocked and doesn't pass a plan by Sept. 30, Congressional redistricting will be taken over by the courts.
Raye, who served as Sen. Olympia Snowe's chief of staff for several years until 2001, said he is interested regardless of how the district turns out.
"I'm considering it," Raye told Roll Call in an interview. "Obviously, I'm always intrigued by an opportunity to serve."
Raye, who owns a gourmet mustard mill with his wife, said his strategy if he runs would be to contrast his record with Michaud's. He telegraphed some potential campaign themes.
For example, he noted he had presided over the passage of "the largest tax cut in the history of Maine" as well as reforms of welfare, pensions and health insurance.
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tory Mazzola said Michaud's "partisan record is a big reason why we are watching this seat and why we expect him to face a serious challenge in 2012. Kevin Raye, with a record of service and creating jobs, would be a formidable opponent."
In 2010, Michaud voted with the Democratic Party 91 percent of the time, according to the CQ Vote Study in Politics in America.
Democrats with knowledge of long-term state politics balked at the idea the political tilt of the state has changed.
"The 2010 elections were, in many ways, an aberration," former Rep. Tom Allen (Maine) said. "Maine politics didn't change that much during the last election cycle."
Allen said Maine remains a state that is essentially independent, but in national elections leans Democratic. "A relatively moderate Republican can have some political success," he said.
Michaud campaign spokesman Greg Olson said the Congressman is focused on his job and will turn his attention to campaigning next fall.
Former Maine Gov. Angus King (I) said Michaud should not be underestimated, but he predicted that if Raye runs, "it will be a close race that will be determined largely by the general mood of the electorate."
He called Raye a "very credible candidate."
"He's done a nice job in the Legislature, and I think people have a lot of respect for him, so it won't be a walkover for Mike by any means," he said.