The Portland Press Herald offers a very balanced article today on the primary election prospects of Senator Olympia Snowe and her potential challengers in the Republican Senate primary in 2012. Senator Snowe does have very strong relationship within the Maine Republican Party and those relationships really matter at primary election time.
Scott D’Amboise (a personal friend) and Andrew Ian Dodge (a guy I have known for several years) have both formally announced they are challenging Snowe in the 2012 primary. Each man is passionate about his beliefs, has been active in trying to advance conservative ideals in Maine and both, of course, are hoping to ride the wave of the Tea Party activists in Maine that brought electoral victory for Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage.
As the Press Herald notes, LePage has already pledged his support to Olympia Snowe and said that support is un-shakable. Additionally, Snowe to her credit, has been reaching out to Maine voters in a much more vigorous manner over the last few months, talking issues, explaining her process for deciding how to cast her vote and listening to the angst and anger of the average citizen. Snowe is a seasoned veteran of 30 plus years, knows how to connect with the average Mainer and will not take any challenger lightly. Any hopes that current or potential challengers had of catching off-guard were ruin by 1) the success of Tea Party challengers around the country in 2010, and 2) her very close win against Pat McGowan in 1990. McGowan almost toppled her and the margin of her victory was only a few thousand votes.
D’Amboise and Dodge have some rather large hurdles to overcome. Neither is well-known in Republican circles, a vital component to any successful primary challenge, and each has individual hurdles to overcome.
Scott D’Amboise is an all around good guy. He is a traditionalist more so than a conservative in that he believes in the traditional values that have made this country great: faith, family, community and hard work. D’Amboise, in many ways, embodies the typical Maine male. He sees the Bible as the foundation of his life and he sees the Constitution as the foundation of this country and takes a very traditional reading of both.
What he lacks is name ID and to build that in any substantial way, it take money. Money is something else he currently lacks and thus far, has not shown an ability to raise much of it.
Dodge is different. While he advocates for strong fiscal restraint, he is more on the fringes with his traditional values. The first time I met him, about a decade ago, he attended a rally I organized. I would describe his attire at that event as “Gothic” although that is a personal observation, not a statement of fact. Maine Republicans and Maine goths have not been known to travel in the same circles.
He is also a prolific blogger and his writings has a broad range of influences and ideas, many of which do not reside in the mainstream. Because of his vast writings, Dodge will have to defend many of his ideas that are outside the mainstream as the news industry begins to take a deeper look at his candidacy.
Dodge also lacks name ID, but word on the street is, he does not lack for personal wealth, so buying name ID in a very targeted primary is not his problem. To put it bluntly, Andrew Ian Dodge is going to have a devil of a time convincing the average Maine Republican that he is one of us, that he represents our values, our ideas and what we want in a Senator representing Maine. That task is his albatross. A personal makeover that gives him a more traditional appearance and manner of presenting himself will likely appear inauthentic. Sincerity is critical for any “Tea Party type” challenger to be successful, so Dodge’s challenge is made all the more difficult.
Finally, there is rumored to be a third challenger in the chase to remove Snowe. This becomes even more problematic for D’Amboise and Dodge in that as more people enter the primary, the non-Snowe vote is splintered, insuring her victory.
What does all this mean? Very simply, the following: If Senator Snowe were to be challenged by someone with personal wealth, stature within the community and a clear, articulate voice that is espousing traditional ideas, she might be in primary trouble.
The truth is, currently, there is no “Joe Miller” in Maine and even if there were, Maine does not have a “Sarah Palin” to trumpet his or her candidacy that would tap into the Republican Party anger that Miller did in Alaska.