Maine Senate: Tea Party Express to Target Snowe

The Tea Party Express, which “raised and spent millions of dollars to knock off moderate Republicans in Alaska, Colorado and Delaware in the 2010 election cycle, is now going after Olympia Snowe in Maine,” Roll Call reports.

The conservative group, arguably the most organized and best funded campaign tool in the tea party movement, announced Thursday afternoon that it plans to fight the moderate Republican’s 2012 re-election effort. Snowe enjoys tremendous popularity across the political spectrum in her home state, but she has irritated Maine’s small and disjointed tea party movement for her willingness to work with Democrats.

Pine Tree State conservatives have already dubbed “Snowe removal” a top priority for 2012, when Maine’s senior Senator will seek her fourth term. But they have struggled to rally around a single challenger.

“Olympia Snowe dishonors the notion that the Republican Party is supposed to be the fiscally conservative, constitutionalist political party in America,” Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer said in a statement.

Response:

Snowe’s chief of staff, John Richter, countered that the Tea Party Express was “obviously … totally unfamiliar with her record on fiscal responsibility.”

“The idea that Senator Snowe dishonors the notion that Republicans are the fiscally conservative party is absurd,” he wrote to Roll Call on Thursday, listing her effort in 2001 to preserve federal surpluses and pay down the national debt, as well as her support for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

The involvement of the Tea Party Express “in Maine’s Senate race could be a game changer.”

Steve Kornacki argues that Snowe is “well-positioned to survive, simply because her home state of Maine is far more receptive to independent candidacies than just about any other state in the country.”

So Snowe, who enjoys broad popularity outside of the GOP base, could lose the Republican primary in ’12 to a Tea Party ideologue — or not even contest it — and still be the runaway favorite in the fall. Remember, Maine reelected an independent governor, Angus King, by a 40-point margin just over a decade ago.

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