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Maine Mystery: Snowe Tea Party Rival?

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While there has been speculation that she might run as an Independent or even become a Democrat, Snowe has moved in recent months to strengthen her conservative credentials. She supported the stimulus package and was the only Republican to endorse a version of President Barack Obamas health care overhaul, but she opposed the final bill and signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this month challenging a central provision of the new law.

Ive been at the forefront of a number of anti-spending initiatives [and] fiscal issues, Snowe told Roll Call in late September. I agree with tea party types when they say that the Republican Party lost its way. I agree. I was arguing that case for many years.

But members of Maines fractured tea party movement say its too little, too late.

Olympia is a little bit too far to the left for our liking. I often ask myself why shes a Republican, said Pete The Carpenter Harring, the leader of the Maine ReFounders, a tea party organization with no affiliation to Dodges group.

Harring said he isnt aware of the candidate Dodge is touting but acknowledged that his group is aggressively trying to locate someone who will challenge Snowe from the right. Scott DAmboise, a small-business owner and former town selectman, has already announced a bid, but tea party groups have been reluctant to back him. They criticize him as a former Congressional candidate simply trying to ride the tea partys enthusiasm to victory.

Overall, Harring said, Maines conservative movement has never been more excited it recently helped elect a tea-party-approved Republican governor and GOP majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature. As proof of the tea partys newfound clout in the Pine Tree State, Harring is serving on Gov.-elect Paul LePages transition team, an appointment that Dodge criticized.

The little public polling on the 2012 race suggests that Snowe has cause for concern, even though she has overwhelmingly won her past re-election bids.

Sixty-three percent of Republicans polled in September would have chosen a more conservative alternative to Snowe if given the opportunity, according to a poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. And while she is popular among independents and even some Democrats, just 39 percent of likely Republican primary voters approved of the three-term Senators job performance.

Still, the state Republican establishment couldnt be more supportive.

We dont get involved in primaries at the party level, but I cant imagine anyone would seriously consider running against Olympia, said state GOP Chairman Charlie Webster, blasting any suggestion that the Senator might leave the party. Shed never change parties. Shes married to a former Republican governor. Shes been a lifelong Republican. Theres no way shed switch parties. Its not even logical.

Democrats, meanwhile, arent exactly lining up to challenge Snowe.

Rep. Chellie Pingrees office confirmed Monday that the Democrat has no intention of running against Olympia. And while Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli could be a contender, she has yet to come forward.

No politician in the state has the [courage] to run against Snowe, Dodge said, adding that the mystery candidate is a true outsider.

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