Olympia Snowe's prospects for winning the Republican nomination for another term as Senator from Maine are looking the best they have in two years, in what could be a sign of Tea Party fever dwindling.
In October of 2009 only 31% of Maine GOP voters stood with Snowe, while 59% wanted to replace her with someone more conservative. In September of 2010, only 29% of Maine GOP voters stood with Snowe, while 63% wanted to replace her with someone more conservative. In March of this year, only 33% of Maine GOP voters stood with Snowe, while 58% wanted to replace her with someone more conservative. After all three of those polls I thought Snowe's prospects for renomination were pretty much shot. But over the last seven months there's been a major transformation, and now 46% of primary voters in the state stand with Snowe compared to only 47% who want to replace her from the right.
Snowe's approval rating with GOP primary voters is up from 47/44 in March to now 51/37. She's pretty steady with voters describing themselves as 'somewhat conservative' and her popularity has actually declined a little bit with moderates. But she's done a better job over the last half year of wooing the far right voters who classify themselves as being 'very conservative.' They still don't like her but she's improved 23 points on the margin with them from -47 (21/68) to -24 (29/53).
Beyond the fact that she's improved her standing with the far right, she's also benefiting from the fact that the Tea Party just isn't that strong in Maine these days. Only 21% of Republican primary voters in the state identify as members of that movement. They want to replace Snowe with someone more conservative by an 80-16 margin...but they're pretty much drowned out by the rest of the GOP electorate supporting Snowe 58-36. That Tea Party base just doesn't appear to be as large as it used to be.
Tested against her actual primary opponents Snowe gets 62% to 10% for Scott D'Amboise and 7% for Andrew Ian Dodge with 20% undecided.
Snowe's position is much better than it was earlier in the year. I still wouldn't describe it as good. Her 51/37 approval with Republicans is a lot worse than Mike Castle's 61/23 with Delaware Republicans in December of 2009 or Lisa Murkowski's 77/13 with Alaska Republicans in January of 2010 were before they got taken out from the right. Beyond that her opponents have no name recognition at this point so they'll probably grow as they become better known, and there's certainly still a large chunk of voters that want to replace Snowe. But she doesn't look as doomed as she did before and that's good news both for her and for Republican prospects of taking back the Senate- there aren't a lot of other GOP candidates who could win a general in Maine.
Full results here