Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is among the most liberal in the Republican caucus. While her politics have served her well in Blue Maine, she will face inevitable teabagger opposition in the GOP primary when she's up for reelection in the 2012 cycle. And as PPP polling shows, she's got a tough road ahead of her if she wants to remain with Team Red.
Our Maine poll this week finds that Snowe continues to be one of the most popular Senators in the country with a 50/40 approval rating, which in this political environment is great. Her numbers are very unusual though in that her highest level of popularity is with Democrats at 59/29. She's on solid ground with independents as well at 52/39. It's the voters in her own party bringing down her overall numbers- a 51% majority of Republicans disapprove of her with only 40% giving her good marks.
Snowe should have an interesting balancing act if she runs again in 2012. By a 40-36 margin Democrats in the state say her rightful place is in the Republican Party. But by a 50-37 spread Republicans say she would fit in better as a Democrat. Snowe's best path to reeelection may be as an independent caucusing with the Democrats- we'll release numbers on Monday that make it very clear her chances of being nominated again as a Republican are slim if she gets a half viable challenge from the right.
Pulling a Jeffords would certainly make sense for Snowe. But even better, she should give the Democratic Party serious consideration. If she waits too long, she could suffer a Charlie Crist -- squeezed by the two major parties and devoid of a machine. Like Crist, winning under those conditions isn't impossible, but it's tougher. An earlier switch to the Democratic Party would give her time to prove her bona fides to skeptical Democrats, and give her an easy major-ballot path to reelection.
Given her past voting record, it seems silly for her to go down in defeat in defense of a radicalized GOP, when she clearly has far more in common with Democrats than she does with Mitch McConnell's crew.