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Washington State Holds Caucuses Today     Permalink

"I hate Washington" is probably not the ideal slogan when campaigning north of the Oregon border, but the feeling is still there. Actually, the candidates aren't saying much of anything in Washington, despite the fact that the Republicans are holding their caucuses there today. The candidates are all focusing on Tuesday's primary in Ohio. A recent PPP poll gives Romney a 37% to 32% lead over Santorum in Washington, but a victory for him there will be largely ignored (although a defeat would hurt). All eyes are on March 6, when 10 states vote.

Maine Senate Field Taking Shape     Permalink

After Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) unexpectedly announced that she was not going to run for reelection, everyone's model of the battle to control the new Senate was completely upended. Snowe was considered a shoo-in for winning a fourth term, having received 74% of the vote in 2006--a big year for the Democrats. Within a day there was endless speculation about who was going to run but now the picture is becoming a bit clearer. Typically, when a Senate seat becomes vacant, one or more of the state's representatives run for it. Maine has two representatives. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) represents the densely populated (for Maine) southern part of the state (ME-01). Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) represents ME-02, which covers the rest of the state and is the biggest congressional district east of the Mississippi. Pingree is almost certainly running and Michaud has now said he will not run. Former governor John Baldacci, a Democrat, is also mulling a run. If he decides to do it, there will be a primary between Pingree, Baldacci, and some minor candidates. At this point, Pingree, a progressive, is favored because (1) Baldacci is a fairly dull campaigner, and (2) Maine has a long history of electing women to the Senate, going back to the four terms Margaret Chase Smith served starting in 1948.

On the Republican side, state senate president Kevin Raye (R), widely viewed as the Republicans' best hope, has decided not to run. The Republican bench in Maine is weak and a local businessman, Scott D'Amboise, who has already filed to run, may end up being the GOP candidate by default. Maine is a very blue state (Obama carried it by 17% in 2008) and Republican officials know that winning an open seat in a presidential election year definitely requires swimming upstream.

One unknown is what former independent governor Angus King will do. If King decides to go for one more hurrah, he could shake up the general election race in unpredictable ways. A three-way race between Pingree, an unknown Republican, and King is a real possibility. King is still popular in the state, but Pingree (56) could argue that it takes years to get enough seniority in the Senate to have any real power and King (67) is simply too old.

Without a doubt, Maine now represents the Democrats' best chance for picking up a Senate seat, even more than Massachusetts, where Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Elizabeth Warren are running neck and neck. If the Democrats pick up these two New England states, a region where Obama is popular and is likely to turn out many Democrats, the Republicans would have to win five or six seats (depending who is elected Vice President) to take control of the Senate. North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Missouri, and Montana are certainly possibilities, but the odds of the Republicans winning all of them (and one more if Joe Biden is reelected to the vice presidency) is small. Thus Snowe, who politely but firmly, opposed the Democrats on almost everything during the past few years, may have done them the ultimate favor by making it very difficult for the Republicans to capture the Senate in 2012.

Update: Secretary of State Charles Summers (R) and State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin (R) are considering a run.

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Previous headlines

Feb29 Romney Barely Wins Michigan
Feb29 Olympia Snow Announces Her Retirement
Feb28 Michigan Too Close to Call
Feb28 Kerrey May Run for the Senate in Nebraska
Feb23 Romney Attacks, Santorum Defends, Nothing Much Changes
Feb23 Of Vaginas and Veeps
Feb21 Too Late for a White Knight
Feb21 Another Republican Debate Tomorrow
Feb17 Santorum Leading Romney in Michigan
Feb12 Romney Wins the CPAC Straw Poll
Feb12 Romney Edges Out Paul by 194 Votes in Maine
Feb12 Santorum Leading in Michigan and Nationwide
Feb08 Santorum Wins Big in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado
Feb05 Romney Wins Nevada Caucuses
Feb05 Republican Primary and Caucus Schedule
Feb04 Romney Expected to Win Big at Nevada Caucuses Today
Feb04 Economy is Improving
Feb01 Romney Wins Decisively in Florida
Jan31 Romney Set to Win Big in Florida
Jan31 Santorum Faces Easy Choice Tomorrow
Jan31 Prediction: Florida Will Win Today
Jan27 Romney Takes Off the Gloves in Final Florida Debate
Jan27 Romney Failed to List Foreign Investments on Legal Form
Jan25 Obama Lays Groundwork for a Populist Campaign in State-of-the-Union Speech
Jan24 Romney Releases 2010 Tax Return
Jan24 Role Reversal in the Debate: Romney Attacks, Gingrich Plays Defense
Jan24 Fred Thompson Endorses Newt Gingrich
Jan22 Gingrich Crushes Romney in South Carolina
Jan20 Perry Drops Out and Endorses Gingrich
Jan20 Gingrich Surging in South Carolina
Jan20 Gingrich's Second Wife Attacks Him
Jan20 Romney Loses His Win in Iowa
Jan20 Romney Reported to Have Millions of Dollars in the Cayman Islands
Jan20 The Final Four Take Off the Gloves in the Last Debate before the South Carolina Primary
Jan17 Hard-Hitting Debate in South Carolina Changes Nothing
Jan16 Huntsman Expected to Drop Out Today and Endorse Romney
Jan16 Why is the Republican Field So Weak?
Jan16 South Carolina Debate Tonight
Jan15 Social Conservatives Agree to Back Santorum
Jan13 Eleventh Commandment Repealed