Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe hasn't lost an election in Maine for more than 30 years, but that hasn't stopped a half-dozen candidates from taking their shot at defeating her in 2012.
With two new Democratic challengers jumping in the race, six candidates are now crowding the field to prevent the sitting senator's re-election for a fourth term.
Snowe, who has held office in either the U.S. House or Senate since 1979, has strong name recognition on her side, and is known for her campaigning and fundraising prowess. She had $3.4 million in campaign funds as of last month. But her hold on the seat could be slipping this year. Snowe has been criticized by conservatives for being a RINO, or "Republican in Name Only." The Tea Party Express in early 2011 identified Snowe as a top target in the 2012 elections.
On the right, Snowe is being challenged by Tea Party-backed candidates Scott D'Amboise and Andrew Ian Dodge, neither of whom have held office before, but are running to Snowe's right, hoping to paint her as too moderate.
On the left, four Democrats are vying for their party's nomination. State Secretary Matt Dunlap and state Rep. Jon Hinck are now joined by state Sen. Cynthia Dill and businessman Benjamin Pollard. Dunlap and Hinck are framing Snowe as a Washington insider who represents what's broken in Congress.
Challengers on both sides of the aisle point to Snowe's voting record as inconsistent, saying the pendulum sways left and right. But if history proves anything, her moderate record will only help her in the general election. The senator still enjoys strong support from voters and has historically won re-election by a comfortable margin.
A recent poll by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling shows Snowe's approval rating had dropped slightly, but with 57 percent approval she's still one of the most popular senators in the country. The poll shows she would beat either of her early Democratic challengers by more than 40 percent. But the wild card here is if Snowe loses the GOP nomination to one of her more conservative challengers. If that happens, it could be anyone's game.
"If Olympia Snowe wins nomination for another term she's close to unbeatable," PPP President Dean Debnam said in a release in November. "Democrats really just have to root for her to lose in the primary."
Snowe's campaign has said repeatedly that the senator has never taken an election for granted and doesn't plan to start now.
The Republican and Democratic Senate primaries are set to be held June 12.
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