The Tea Party Express also announced Thursday that it will go after Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in 2012. The two names are additions to a target list that already includes Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), and a complete list will be released this year.
The involvement of the Tea Party Express in Maine’s Senate race could be a game changer. The group played a central role in the campaign to defeat Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska GOP primary last year. Although she lost in the primary to tea party favorite Joe Miller, Murkowski ultimately won re-election as a write-in candidate in the general election.
Former Rep. Mike Castle wasn’t so lucky in Delaware. After its Alaska success, the Tea Party Express focused its resources on knocking off the moderate Republican in favor of perennial candidate Christine O’Donnell. Although Castle was well ahead of Democratic challenger Chris Coons in the general election polls, he did not survive the Republican primary against O’Donnell, largely because of the efforts of the Tea Party Express. Coons went on to soundly defeat O’Donnell in November.
“As tea party activists we have a responsibility to support fiscally responsible, constitutional conservatives — and Olympia Snowe is about as far as one can get from that,” the Tea Party Express wrote to supporters in a fundraising message Thursday evening.
“Olympia Snowe doesn’t respect the responsibility of her job to serve the American people — she instead serves the liberal interests of the news media and Washington, D.C. political establishment,” the message added. “It’s time for her to be voted out of office once and for all!
“We need to defeat Olympia Snowe. Please help us with the most generous contribution you can afford.”
To capitalize on the Republican infighting, Maine Democrats will need to recruit a challenger, even though they are generally pleased with Snowe’s moderate record.
Neither Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) nor Rep. Mike Michaud (D) is thought to be interested. Former gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli (D) is openly considering a run, but she told Roll Call last month that Snowe would have to move decidedly to the right to persuade her to run.
Democrats’ best chance, according to Scarcelli, will come if Snowe shifts her positions sharply to the right to fend off a primary challenge. But at this point, Scarcelli said she’s “proud” of her potential opponent.
Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) “are both good moderates,” Scarcelli said. “Olympia’s challenge right now, her fear is that she will have a very conservative opponent. My concern for all of us is that she’s going to have to tack far to the right to maintain her base. But I am proud of our women Senators. It would be a tremendous challenge to run for her seat. But if there’s a primary challenge, it’s something we need to look hard at, whether it’s me or someone else.”