In perhaps bigger news that Mitt Romney’s Tuesday wins in Michigan and Arizona, three-term Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) sent shock waves through the political world by announcing that she has decided not to seek re-election in the fall. Despite high favorability and poll ratings, Snowe indicated she is leaving the Senate at the end of the term rather than serve in a Republican caucus that is trending far to the right of her individual ideological perspective.
The retirement is a blow to Republican chances of regaining the Senate majority, as the Maine seat appeared secure. Without Snowe in the race, Democrats become the favorites in an open seat race.
Expect Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) to give serious consideration to running, as might former Gov. John Baldacci (D). Republican Gov. Paul LePage also has to be considered a strong potential candidate, but he has given no early indication that he will run.
Because Maine has a penchant for electing Independents in statewide contests, one also must consider who could run without being associated with a major party. Former two-term Independent Gov. Angus King would top this list of potential contenders.
Sen. Snowe becomes the 10th Senator to retire at the end of this Congress, meaning that 30 percent of the 2012 in-cycle seats will be open. Of the 10 upcoming vacancies, six are currently held by Democrats, one by an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats (Sen. Joe Lieberman), and three Republicans.