Ten Miles Square


November 27, 2012 10:32 AM Olympia Snowe’s Mixed Signals

By Colin Woodard

In February, the political establishment here in Maine was rocked by Sen. Olympia’s Snowe’s late and entirely surprising announcement that she would not seek reelection. The Senate, she said, had become a frustrating place, where “an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.” Rather than serve another term - her reelection was a given - she would “enter a new chapter” in which she would “help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”

“I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us,” she added, and later announced she would convert her campaign committee into a PAC to support such centrist, post-partisan change.

But here in Maine, where she is the perhaps most influential Republican, Snowe has not yet put her money where her mouth is.

As my story in today’s Portland Press Herald shows, Snowe, her husband, and her campaign committee gave exclusively to Republicans and in Maine’s state-level races this cycle, including divisive and polarizing figures like Gov. Paul LePage, with whom she shares a personal loyalty. Indeed, her staff say she gave to candidates based on their loyalty to her during her abortive reelection bid, and the pattern of her giving emphasizes party over ideology, as when she appeared in television ads to unseat the most avowedly centrist, non-partisan member of the state senate in favor of a Republican challenger.

Sources expect her political donations will change character going forward, now that her campaign committee has become Olympia’s List. Stay tuned.

Colin Woodard is State and National Affairs Writer at the Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram and author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.


  • Citizen Alan on November 28, 2012 3:45 PM:

    There is no such thing as a moderate Republican. There are Conservative True Believer Republicans who think that every damn fool idea to bear the GOP stamp was handed down from heaven. And there are Conservative Pretender Republicans who know better but who are too gutless to stand up to the first group in defense of their own beliefs. Since their voting habits are identical, I see little need to distinguish between them. Like Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe branded herself as a "moderate" but I cannot think of a single example in the last decade of when she actually stood up to her own party on any matter of substance. I can think of damn few occasions when she could even be bothered not to go along with GOP filibusters of things she claimed to support! What's the point of "moderate" principles when you abandon them every single time that Mitch McConnell snaps his fingers and shouts "Heel!"?