Olympia Snowe appears to be almost unbeatable if she survives the Republican primary in the Maine Senate race next year. She leads both of her announced Democratic opponents by more than 40 points- it's 42 over Matthew Dunlap at 64-22 and 47 over Jon Hinck at 65-17.
Snowe's overall approval rating is 57/36, making her one of the most popular Senators in the country. But what makes her particularly formidable is that she's at 65/29 with independents and 58/37 with Democrats, making her stronger with both of those voter groups than she is with her own party base. She's only at 50/40 with Republicans, but if she makes it to the general election she doesn't need to worry about their votes and her crossover support should make it just about impossible for a Democrat to beat her.
This is the best indicator of how difficult it will be for one of the current Democratic candidates to beat Snowe- she leads them even with Democrats! Snowe leads Dunlap 46-37 and Hinck 47-32 with voters in their own party. Beyond that she gets 72% of the independent vote against both of them, in addition to having a united Republican base.
We tested a couple pie in the sky candidates who have shown no interest in running- House members Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree- against Snowe as well just to see if even a name Democratic candidate would have a chance against her. Michaud has very strong statewide favorability numbers- 53% see him positively to 27% with a negative opinion- that could make him a good candidate for higher office somewhere down the line. But not against Snowe- he trails her 54-37 because Snowe gets 28% of the Democratic vote and wins independents 64-30. Pingree has a solid 47/34 favorability spread statewide as well, but she trails Snowe by 19 points head to head at 55-36.
If Snowe does somehow lose in the primary this becomes a prime pick up opportunity for Democrats. Dunlap leads Republican lesser lights Scott D'Amboise and Andrew Ian Dodge by margins of 31-23 and 30-25 respectively. Hinck would find himself basically tied with both of them- down 26-25 to D'Amboise, but up 27-25 on Dodge. Obviously there would be a whole lot of undecideds in these hypothetical match ups between candidates who currently are pretty much unknown to voters in the state.
A couple other notes on how Snowe has shored up her standing with Republicans over the last 6 months:
-In March 56% of GOP voters felt that Snowe was too liberal. Now only 41% express that opinion. Democrats (from 31% to 41%) and independents (from 13% to 19%) increasingly think that Snowe is too conservative but obviously that's not hurting her overall standing.
-In March the sentiment of 41% of voters in the state was that Snowe should leave the Republican Party and become an independent, compared to 28% who thought she should stick with the GOP. But now 47% think Republican is her rightful label, to only 24% who think she should be an independent.
Full results here