ME-Sen: Snowe at Risk in Primary, but Cruises in General

Public Policy Polling (PDF) (3/3-6, “usual” Maine Republican primary voters, no trendlines):

Olympia Snowe (R-inc): 43

Scott D’Amboise (R): 18

Andrew Ian Dodge (R): 10

Undecided: 28

Olympia Snowe (R-inc): 33

Republican Jesus (R): 58

Undecided: 9

(MoE: ±4.7%)

I agree with Tom: These numbers are not good for Snowe, not at all. D’Amboise and Dodge are truly at Some Dude levels, with only 5% and 2% (two percent!) favorables respectively, and yet the incumbent manages to score only 43% of primary voters. Moreover, as Tom reminds us, “Lisa Murkowski’s approval with Republicans in January of 2010 was 77/13 and Mike Castle’s in March of 2009 at an identical point in the cycle was 69/24.” As I’ve been saying all along, if the Tea Party Express or the Club for Growth throws down here, Snowe is in a heap of trouble. (By the way, “Republican Jesus” is the technical term for what PPP calls “a more conservative challenger.”)

This is all very poignant for Snowe, because, look:

Public Policy Polling (PDF) (3/3-6, Maine voters, no trendlines):

Emily Cain (D): 20

Olympia Snowe (R-inc): 64

Undecided: 16

Rosa Scarcelli (D): 18

Olympia Snowe (R-inc): 66

Undecided: 17

Emily Cain (D): 33

Scott D’Amboise (R): 33

Undecided: 34

Rosa Scarcelli (D): 29

Scott D’Amboise (R): 36

Undecided: 35

Emily Cain (D): 32

Andrew Ian Dodge (R): 30

Undecided: 37

Rosa Scarcelli (D): 29

Andrew Ian Dodge (R): 33

Undecided: 38

(MoE: ±2.8%)

Those are some massive numbers for an incumbent in a swing state. And note the crossover appeal – Emily Cain, for instance, does 13 points better against the nobodies (fellow nobodies?) than she does against Snowe. Yet Snowe might not even get the chance to have this fight. But like Yoda said, there is another….

Emily Cain (D): 17

Scott D’Amboise (R): 21

Olympia Snowe (I): 54

Undecided: 7

Rosa Scarcelli (D): 15

Scott D’Amboise (R): 20

Olympia Snowe (I): 56

Undecided: 9

Emily Cain (D): 15

Andrew Ian Dodge (R): 19

Olympia Snowe (I): 56

Undecided: 10

Rosa Scarcelli (D): 13

Andrew Ian Dodge (R): 19

Olympia Snowe (I): 57

Undecided: 10

(MoE: ±2.8%)

In this hypothetical scenario where Snowe runs as an independent, she also posts huge numbers, peeling from both sides. I’ll turn it over to Tom once more to provide the closing words:

If Snowe continues on as a Republican this is a race that an ambitious Democrat who doesn’t have a ton to lose should really look at. Obviously if Snowe emerges as the Republican nominee you’re going to lose and you’re going to lose by a lot. If Snowe ends up running as an independent you’re probably going to lose and you’re probably going to lose by a lot. But if Snowe stays the course and gets taken out you might become Chris Coons – a guy who was willing to throw his name in the hat when it looked impossible and ended up coasting to an easy general election victory.

For Snowe there’s a hard route to reelection and an easy one – it’ll be interesting to see if she sticks with the hard one.

42 thoughts on “ME-Sen: Snowe at Risk in Primary, but Cruises in General”

  1. Kohl, Whitehouse, Casey and others are under 50% in a blue/purple states while Snowe is at +60% in a GE match?

    No I don’t go by the old saw of being under 50% in the polls and being an incumbent means you lose.  All I am saying is that 20 months ahead of an election an incumbent under 50% is troubling for that party.  

    An incumbent has name recognition, clout, accomplishments to point and yet most polls here show incumbents are polling poorly.  

  2. Or can Olympia Snowe do next year what Joe Lieberman did in 2006?

    If she can, then she’s set. But if not, and there is a “Sore Loser Law” preventing Snowe from turning Indie should she lose the GOP primary, might she think of going past the Maine GOP now?

  3. Olympia Snowe has been in politics most of her adult life and has NEVER (seriously, ever) lost a race. It would be kinda hilarious (and sad) if the first one she did lose was a primary.

    Go indie, Olympia! Do it for Maine and America!

  4. Obviously, they were going to be getting nuked by Snowe in general election matchups, but I’m amazed that Scarcelli and Cain are so weak against D’Amboise/Dodge. Scarcelli’s negatives probably come from that op-research scandal in the governorship race, but if she could get over that I would have thought her businesswoman profile would be better than the “establishment politician” image of Cain (like Libby Mitchell). Though Cain sounds as sceptical about a run, making the same “maybe if Snowe is primaried” noises that Scarcelli made:

    I’d maybe assume that third that Dodge/D’Amboise and the third Cain/Scarcelli each get is partisan base support, and Maine’s lean should theoretically deliver most of the remaining third for Cain/Scarcelli, but with Maine’s indie streak you never know. With Dems playing so much defense and needing this seat, I’m wondering if they should just recruit Michaud. Even if Snowe winds up the nominee or goes Indie, he’s probably got a better shot against her than any other potential Dem in the state. Others have suggested the Dems recruit Eliot Cutler, but I’d suspect he’d lose his appeal if he wasn’t an Independent anymore.

  5. Since this election could change the balance of power in the US Senate from the Dems to the GOP, especially with so many more Dem seats up for reelection, wouldn’t it be ironic if Snowe ended up running as a Dem or Independent and was able to be the deciding vote between GOP and Dem control of the Senate, for example, if, after the election, it was 50 GOP seats, 49 Dem seats (including Sanders), Snowe goes with the Dems and Biden cast the deciding tie breaker.  I know that the leadership would have to set up the committees with an almost equal amount from each party, and etc., but, still the irony of it all is so wonderful.  

  6. Do good lawyers say “don’t ask a question unless you already know the answer?”

    I’m going to take a wild guess and suggest that’s the reason for the people who were named in this poll.


    1) Snowe is more popular than Collins

    2) Collins beat another rep in another Pres year (’08)

    3) Snowe should beat either Michaud or Pingree handily, even with President Obama atop the ’12 ticket.

    If such numbers (Snowe/Michaud, Snowe/Pingree) were published, our strongest candidates (and their supporters) would be discouraged.

    Wilder guess: Michaud already has an internal showing him losing handily to Snowe — and paid PPP for these specific questions to try to shift the narrative.

    Instead, he commissioned this PPP poll (perhaps through a 3rd party) —

    A) Showing our 2nd tier candidates v. Snowe — even poor results there would not discourage Michaud or Pingree

    B) Showing Snowe v. Tea Party types should give Michaud/Pingree hope

    C) Showing Tea Party types v. our 2nd tier candidates in an even race would give Michaud/Pingree additional hope.

  7. Sheldon Whitehouse is dealing with a more polarized electorate where Dems love him, but GOPers hate him and Indies are lukewarm. I have no doubt he’ll be reelected next year, but he probably won’t get many crossover votes.

    Olympia Snowe, OTOH, is a larger-than-life politician who’s among Maine’s most beloved elected officials. She has high approval from Dems and Indies. Ironically for her, it’s her own party complicating her reelection campaign.

  8. Maine voters are at least as aware as Alaska.  Spelling Snowe is a lot easier than Mir  Murka  Mirkou  Senator Lisa M.

  9. which unlike Murkowski in Ruby red Alaska it may come down to which party has the majority after ’12. Sure if the republicans miss it this time there likely to take it back in 14 but 16 provides the same problem for them.  

  10. could have made a similar claim before he lost the Republican senate primary to Christine O’Donnell last year in Delaware.  Castle had won fifteen elections with no losses; and twelve of those victories were statewide.  Look what good it did him!

  11. But it is 99% certain neither D’Amboise or Dodge will be. Look at their negatives, and no one even knows much about them. Both are part of the old-style Maine clean elections racket(ie. people who run losing campaigns four or more times a year in order to pay themselves salaries out of clean elections funding, and then donate to each other to ensure they get the requisite contributions to qualify).

    The people who matter will defer to Snowe. If she is not going to run, they will all unite, in a spectrum stretching from Peter Mills to Paul Lepage, behind someone who can win. If Snowe looks like she may lose to a nobody, someone semi-viable like Carol Weston will get in who at least has a real shot against D-listers like Cain or Scarcelli.

    The mistake everyone makes about Maine is that they focus only on Presidential results. Democrats have had enormous trouble winning at the state level since the 1980s. 1988 was the last time a Democrat got to 50% in a statewide-race, and while a resume-less tea partier would be doomed, Maine is far too much of a machine state, and the GOP is far too patronage dependent, to let someone non-viable through.  

  12. Where are Michaud, Chellie Pingree or even Baldacci?

    Where are LePage or the 2002 and 2006 republican gubernatorial candidates in the republican side?

    This poll leaves us without key information…

    It seems they want money for poll decently Maine or Connecticut :)

  13. I think she would still stay with the GOP should she run (and win) as an Independent.  She’s not a Jeffords or a Chafee, but she is still non-bat shit teabagging crazy, so I would accept her in open arms with our party.  

  14. “Maine is far too much of a machine state, and the GOP is far too patronage dependent, to let someone non-viable through.” I’m quite literally stunned at this statement. That kind of attitude plays right into the hands of the Tea Party. And what is to stop Michaud running if Snowe looks like she will lose the primary?

  15. Your description sounds plausible enough, but I don’t see how Carol Weston is as harmless as you make her out to be. For one thing, she’s already openly discussed a primary challenge against Snowe, both in general and with her as the candidate. That doesn’t sound like someone who would be in a position to keep the seat for the good of the party. Besides, there’s a filing deadline. If Snowe looks like she will go down to someone non-viable in the general, when would someone like Weston, or someone else who is supposedly more viable, going to jump in?

    In general, I’m curious about how you think the state Republican party is going to prevent someone who would be dead on arrival from winning the primary.  

  16. LePage isn’t going to run against Snowe since they are close, and Baldacci probably wasn’t a good choice as a matchup since his approval ratings were underwater when he left office and hasn’t expressed interest in running for another political office.

  17. LePage isn’t going to run against Snowe since they are close, and Baldacci probably wasn’t a good choice as a matchup since his approval ratings were underwater when he left office and hasn’t expressed interest in running for another political office.

  18. but it is obvious these are not the strongest challengers for this senate seat.

    And why PPP only poll O Snow as republican and as independent and poll not her as democrat?

    This poll forget key options, then it is a failed poll.

  19. She has a very long history with the state GOP (much stronger than Specter ever did) and is married to a Republican former governor. If she wanted to leave the party for self-preservation reasons, she would have a much, much easier time getting elected as an independent than as a Democrat.  

  20. There’s kind of a limit on how many matchups you want to ask in any one poll, and this one pushed it almost to the max. You risk boring people, getting lots of hangups, and just crufting up your data because people get confused. Remember, 11% of people who approve of Obama’s job performance also told PPP he should be impeached! It’s easy to confuse non-junkies.

    By the way, dude, did you get the babka?

  21. Silly poll in comparison to the excellent ones PPP has been doing.  It is much more valuable to poll the most well-known figures, whatever their faults and strengths, than only unknown figures.  At least one unknown figure is good too, but not polling Baldacci/Michaud/Allen is a silly waste, especially with an obtuse headline like:

    “Snowe a shoo-in either as Republican or independent”

    WTF?  Uh, she’s a shoo-in against an unknown person.

    As a minimum data point, compare Snowe against Allen to Allen against Collins.  Duh, there you have something.

  22. I know her late husband was quite passionate about the Republican Party and I happen to think Snowe might well take a chance in the GOP primary and risk being squashed. If not that, she’ll go Indie and still caucus with the GOP. I’ll be shocked, however, if she switched parties. Arlen Specter, let’s not forget, began his career as a Democrat. It’s not as though Snowe at some point switched to the GOP for a political calculus. She’s comfortable in her little RINO wing of the party with Collins and Snowe.

  23. This is why I don’t see her going indie or dem at all.  I think her career in the senate is over, she is going to retire or lose in the primary.  I don’t think she will become an indie, because she has such a deep history in in the ME GOP.

    Pretty sure Maine is going to have a new democratic Senator sworn in January of 2013.

  24. There no way to justify not listing Allen or Michaud as a baseline… especially if you are going to trumpet the headline that Snowe would win as a Rep or Indy.

    It’s a silly combination.  If the headline said Snoew would win against an unknown Dem, that would be different, but it would be hard to conceive a more total fail than this poll.  

    There is no helpful information because everyone tested against Snowe is unknown!

  25. I, too, had never heard of the 2 Democrats PPP tested.  Now, maybe they’re the most likely to get in, and bigger players are unlikely, in which case it’s fair, but that’s hard to believe at this early stage.  PPP in other states has routinely polled bigger names who are virtually certain not to run, so this is a head-scratcher to me.

    It would’ve been nice to have seen 2-ways and 3-ways with Allen and Michaud instead of 2 no-names, as that would’ve given us a better baseline.  When you poll no-names, it’s routine for those people to lose a lot of their own party’s base to a popular incumbent.

    Now, I realize PPP solicits matchups on their blog and on Twitter, so this might be the polling junkie community’s own fault, but I have a hard time believing these 2 Dems were the names that rose to the top in a solicitation of names.

  26. I hope it is a woman that replaces her. Representative Michaud is great and all, but it would be a bigger challenge to defend his seat than someone like Pingree’s seat. Unlike some people I think she could win if Senator Snowe is not involved whether it’s as the Republican or Independent candidate.  

  27. Murkowski has shown us that another little used path actually can be feasible for teabagged Repubs.

  28. The problem with running for things in a state like Maine is that there is so little room for advancement, the top offices are like musical chairs. Two congressman at a time, one governorship, etc. As a consequence, if Michaud is running for Senate, he is not raising his name recognition or setting himself up for something else down the road. He is taking a 60-70% chance that he for all practical purposes ending his political career like Tom Allen did.

    Tom Allen had a background that led him slide into a legal position. Michaud has no skills like that, he was a Mill Worker and Union rep before politics. He has nothing else. Its a huge risk, and it requires a massive leap of faith both that Snowe will lose and that she will not run as an independent.

    The other thing to remember is that the primary is late. Not totally late like in MA, but it is in June, which means you have to make the decision early, and I am not sure if I had a safe congressional seat for life I would want to give it up, knowing that i would have trouble raising money until Snowe lost.

    Coons was different because he had nothing to lose. No one expected him to win and he gave up nothing. Thats not the case with Michaud or Pingree.

  29. Rep. Michaud could easily turn around and run against Gov. LePage if he loses next year. Quite easily. He’s a fairly popular congressman who would probably be Democrats’ most credible candidate, especially if Cutler decides not to run again.

  30. …Carol Moseley-Braun in the 1992 IL-Sen Dem primary after Dixon had been undefeated in countless elections going back 30 years or so.

  31. She’s a business owner who ran in the gubernatorial primary last year.

    Really, the numbers remind me of the early polling for the governor’s race; nobody knew who the candidates were, so they all languished in the 30s.

  32. These guys are political professionals, they know who the major players are in every state, and know how to find out quickly if they don’t.  I’ve never set foot in Maine and can reel off names like Michaud, Tom Allen, and Pingree off the top of my head.  I’d even throw Libby Mitchell in there before the names actually tested.

    But I honestly paid no attention to the selection process, if it was public, for names in this particular poll, and for all I know these two people are the only ones discussed as running.  But even so, that’s not worth anything at this stage, a year before the primary where a strong incumbent is running for reelection.  So throwing more well-known people in there is the smarter path to get a more honest test of Snowe’s indy strength.

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