Senator Olympia Snowe to Retire from the Senate

Earlier this week and to the surprise of pretty much everyone, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe announced that she would not be running for re-election this year. Snowe has served as Senator since 1994, when she became the first woman to have served in both houses of a State Senate as well as both houses of Congress. Her departure brings up some interesting points to ponder.

from Senator Snowe's official photo album

Snowe is a moderate Republican, and her career has been characterized by her willingness to reach across the political aisle to form compromises between moderates of all party affiliations. To wit: Snowe has consistently authored and co-sponsored legislation that would help American small businesses, veterans and their families, and farmers and fishermen. She has supported bills that promote policies on environmental conservation and has often broken with the Republican Party on women’s health issues.

A few concerns immediately bubbled in my mind when I heard the news of her retirement. First, does Snowe’s departure from politics foretell anything about political discourse in our near future? That is to say, how long will it be before we don’t have any moderates left in the legislature, either because they’ve lost their races or gotten fed up with the polarization and gridlock?

Although I’m not a Mainer, my thoughts also turned to who might replace Snowe. Almost immediately, a slew of people floated the possibility of running, only one of them a woman (Chellie Pingree, one of Maine’s two Representatives in the House). There are currently 76 women serving in the House and 17 in the Senate, which means that just little more than 17% of all the seats in Congress are held by women. Losing even one of those seats is significant.

One theory also posits that Snowe has her eyes set on the White House. This is not a totally preposterous thought. For the first time in a very long time, the Republican race remains contested well into primary season. If Santorum continues to do be competitive and Paul can keep scooping up at least a respectable portion of the vote in each state, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that there could be a brokered convention. If no single candidate wins nomination on the first ballot – that is, if none of them can clear half of the total 2286 delegates on their own or with the endorsement/promise of another candidate’s supporters – the door is open for literally anyone to be nominated. (Delegates are only obligated to support the candidate they were sent there to vote for on the first ballot; if the convention attendees can’t come to a consensus on the first vote, they are then free to support whomever they choose on any subsequent ballots, even candidates who never appeared during the regular primary season.) And frankly, a moderate Republican with a remaining campaign war chest of upwards of $3 million has a better chance of beating moderate Democrat Barack Obama in a general election than any of the ultra conservative Republicans who have spent the past year and millions of dollars beating on each other.

It’s all very interesting food for thought.

By BaseballChica03

Political hack. Word nerd. Stays crispy in milk. Oxford Comma user. Blogger since 2001.

16 replies on “Senator Olympia Snowe to Retire from the Senate”

I’m a Mainer and I love Olympia Snowe. In Maine the Republican party is more about fiscal conservatism and less about social conservatism; we’re good at mixing parts of both parties, and sometimes we do bizarrely radical things, like splitting our electoral college votes proportionally depending on the actual vote percentage. Snowe, in addition to having a total superhero name, is a total superhero woman and has been a great moderate voice in the Republican party for years.

That being said, I’d be so goddamned thrilled if Chellie Pingree became our Senator. She’s a Democrat and so would be a nice balance to our other senator, Republican Susan Collins. (That’s right, BOTH our senators are women. We’re awesome.) Former Governor Angus King might run against her, and I’m part of a Facebook group that respectfully asks him not to run, so that we can get Chellie in with minimal fuss and maintain our lady-cred.

I love seeing posts about Maine, BC03! Nice to know we’re making headlines on a national scale.

Delegates are only obligated to support the candidate they were sent there to vote for on the first ballot; if the convention attendees can’t come to a consensus on the first vote, they are then free to support whomever they choose on any subsequent ballots, even candidates who never appeared during the regular primary season.

This is only partly true.  Each state has its own rules.  Some delegates will go to the convention completely unbound.  Some delegates will be bound on the first ballot, some are bound through the fifth.  Some can be released if the candidate they’re bound to declares them unbound.

For the political nerds out there, the Five Thirty Eight blog has a good breakdown on how this looks:

The main take away from the article is that delegate math is hard, and that campaign managers for a national race are much more savvy than I, baby politico that I am.

Good point. I sometimes forget that not every state is New York. :-p Most states do have an option to free up the delegates from their obligation at some point, which is how brokered conventions work. Usually, it doesn’t matter and it’s all over by this point, so not too many people pay attention to the details.

Nice link!

My initial thought when I heard she was retiring was: I hope she isn’t sick.  But let’s assume she’s not.

I don’t think she is planning on running for President.  A brokered convention is probably a 50/50 shot at best and one can run for President while keeping their Senatorial seat, so why retire now is she continues to hold political aspirations.

My second thought is she is pissed at the Republican party.  There is something like two weeks left to file to get on the ballot for Senate in Maine.  If she wasn’t pissed for some reason or another she would have given the party a bit more notice.  While general nature of the over partisan Congress is probably the overarching reason I can’t help to think there must be something more or a straw that broke the camel’s back.


I’m assuming some people in the party were very rude to her recently because she does come out for women’s issues, and that was probably it.  If you’ve read about the things that go on behind closed doors, particularly with the budget negotiations, there are some members of the party who are very disrespectful and unprofessional (Eric Cantor, for one).  If she was on the receiving end of it, she was probably like, “Fuck all you, I’m done!”

McCain already had a reputation as a moderate Republican. (It’s hard to remember now a time when McCain was moderate, but it’s true!) He wanted someone young and to his right to fire up the base. I don’t think Snowe would have given him anything electorally that he didn’t already get on his own.

Although I do think that if McCain had picked someone – anyone! – less batshit and out of control than Sarah Palin, he would have had a much better shot of winning the election, that’s for sure.

I doubt she is running for the presidency just yet.  I am sure that she wants to get away from the polarization and the stress that it brings.  The radicals in the Republican party are point-blank rude, and while others have jumped on the bandwagon, it probably made her sick.  The events surrounding the contraception debate were probably the icing on the cake for her.  I don’t blame her for wanting to leave and regroup.  She could come back and do something awesome when she’s good and ready.  Or maybe she has been approached with job offers that aren’t so stressful.

I can’t say I blame her, either. I’m not what you might call a moderate, but I’m pretty sick of the inability of Congress to compromise on anything. It seems like very few people are willing to compromise lately, and it’s less of real compromise and more Democrats giving in to blackmail and demands so that something – ANYTHING – can get accomplished.

Here’s hoping she did get a sweet lobbying or lecturing gig because she deserves better!

I think she’s getting out while the getting is good.  People are pissed at the Republican Congress.  Why shouldn’t some of these people play higher taxes when they make oodles and oodles of money, why are gays and women and minorities being targeted as scapegoats when the real problem is the economy?

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