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Sen. Olympia Snowe (R)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R)

Red alert! Longtime Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe—in a huge, huge shocker—says she's retiring! All we have is a tweet so far:

“After an extraordinary amount of reflection and consideration, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate."
While I can imagine many reasons why Snowe, age 65 and a member of Congress since 1979, would want to depart, I most certainly cannot say I (or anyone else) saw this coming. Nevertheless, though Snowe was set to cruise to re-election, it would have meant another six years serving as part of an increasingly ultra-hard-right, Tea Party-hijacked caucus—something the faux-moderate Snowe might just have gotten sick-and-tired of doing.

Whatever the cause, Snowe's departure creates an enormous pickup opportunity for Democrats in this decidedly blue state. While several lesser-known candidates had been running against her (including former SoS Matt Dunlap, state Rep. Jon Hinck and state Sen. Cynthia Dill), expect a lot more interest now from bigger names, such as Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud. This is going to be a huge contest and it automatically makes Republican hopes of re-taking the Senate that much more distant. We'll bring you more news as it develops.

2:21 PM PT: Snowe's full statement is now available, and as I suspected, she does cite increased partisanship as a key reason for deciding not to seek re-election (though of course she doesn't point any fingers):

I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions. [...] Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 02:16 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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