Democrats Favored to Pick Up Snowe Seat
The retirement of Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine is about as damaging to a party’s electoral prospects as these things get, turning a seat that Republicans were very likely to retain into one they will probably lose.
There have been some comparable cases in the recent past, but most were on the Democratic side, in particular the retirements of Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana in 2010, and the pending retirement Senator Kent Conrad, also of North Dakota, in this cycle.
Ms. Snowe’s retirement levels the playing field a bit. When we last took an overview of the Senate in December, I gave Republicans a 15 percent chance of losing Ms. Snowe’s seat. Even that 15 percent, however, was not an estimate of Ms. Snowe’s chances of losing in a head-to-head matchup against a Democrat; she remains popular in Maine and easily won re-election there in a difficult election cycle (2006). Instead, it was a hedge against the possibility that Ms. Snowe would retire or succumb to a primary challenge, precisely because the consequences of this would be so damaging to Republicans.
Maine, while idiosyncratic, is a blue-leaning state, enough that you would expect Democrats to have an edge there in an average election cycle in a contest between “generic” opponents.
The further complication for Republicans, however, is that Democrats are likely to have the better candidate, above and beyond their partisan advantage. Especially in a small state, the most natural ascendants to the Senate are members of the United States House of Representatives. Democrats occupy both of Maine’s House seats: Representative Chellie Pingree in the downstate First Congressional District, and Representative Mike Michaud in the Second Congressional District upstate.
Maine is quite homogeneous demographically; being elected from one of the two Congressional districts (as Ms. Snowe was repeatedly from 1978 to 1992) means that one will probably pass muster with voters in the whole state. Moreover, polls find that Ms. Pingree and Mr. Michaud are both reasonably popular, and both won re-election by double-digit margins in 2010, a very challenging cycle for Democrats otherwise.
You can read the rest of this article at:: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/democrats-favored-to-pick-up-snowe-seat/
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