Olympia Snowe Party Switch? Dems Reportedly Pursuing Prospect

Democrats are mounting a new effort to chart a path for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to switch parties, the National Journal reports Wednesday.

Sen. Snowe appears a smart target for Democrats. A moderate Republican who occasionally sides with Democrats, Snowe faces an increasingly difficult road to reelection in 2012, especially with the rising conservative tide that is now lapping at the shores of -- or perhaps flooding -- the Pine Tree State.

In a state with two moderate Republican senators and two Democratic U.S. representatives, the Republican wave last week provided passage for Tea Party-backed gubernatorial candidate Paul LePage, a boisterous and controversial small-town mayor, to become Maine's next Governor (with the campaign help of Snowe, no less). Maine Republicans also made huge gains in the state House and Senate, taking majority control of both.

This may be a bad sign for Sen. Snowe, who is now left to wonder if Republicans of her tilt aren't a dying breed, even in a state that has long been a bastion for moderacy.

Snowe has attempted to take the clear ideological shift of her party in stride, but at times she has addressed the changing landscape with discontent. Last year she notably told MSNBC: "I haven't changed as a Republican. I think more that my party has changed."

Months before that, she said that Sen. Arlen Specter's (Penn.) switch to the Democratic Party "underscores the blunt reality" that the GOP is not a welcome place for moderates.

More recently, Snow appeared visibly upset by the primary loss of Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware to the Tea Party-backed Christine O'Donnell.

"Ideological purity at 100 percent is a utopian world and I don't know who lives in utopia. I've never lived in utopia," Snowe told CNN, before acknowledging the difficulty of her own position within the GOP. "I've always been on the outside looking in, in the world I live in. When you're a minority, moderate, New England, woman, Republican woman, you don't get more outside than that. Do you? I'm a minority within a minority. I've been fighting my whole life."

Snowe's situation has led to a strange dynamic in Maine. Over the past year, multiple polls have shown Snowe with much higher approval ratings among Democrats and independents than with Republicans, a sign that many Maine conservatives see her moderate slant as something that puts her at odds with what they want from the GOP.

The circumstances have long left conservatives and liberals alike wondering if her best option isn't to change her dire circumstances by switching parties.

As if Snowe wasn't aware that the current rightward march of the Republican Party could put her in Tea Party crosshairs, a leader of the Tea Party Patriots made it clear this week:

"She is definitely our next target," Andrew Ian Dodge told the Washington Times of Snowe.