One of the less obvious losers in Tuesday night's primary results? It may have been Olympia Snowe, as Maine Republicans showed that they were perfectly willing to nominate a Tea Party candidate in spite of the moderation the state's two Republican Senators are known for.
Paul LePage, who was embraced by the Tea Party crowd, won a surprisingly resounding 20 point victory over several challengers who more closely fit the Snowe/Collins mold to win the GOP nomination for Governor on Tuesday night.
Back in November we found that only 31% of Maine Republicans would be inclined to nominate Snowe for another term while 59% said they would prefer a more conservative alternative. Some folks questioned the relevance of those numbers at the time, saying that the far right couldn't control the Republican Party in Maine and that Snowe was too popular to get taken out by the Tea Party. But between the results in the primary Tuesday night and what happened to Charlie Crist in Florida I think Snowe is extremely vulnerable to a challenger from the right.
Simply put if a well funded Tea Party candidate targets Olympia Snowe in the primary in 2012 I think she'll lose. Her best path to reelection is probably switching to being an independent, ala Jim Jeffords, but going about the party switch in a more principled way than Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist. Specter and Crist both blatantly left the GOP because they were facing imminent defeat. If Snowe wants to get reelected she should get out now, before the conventional wisdom becomes there's no way she can win another term running as a Republican. That way she can say she's sick of both parties in Washington and wants to provide an independent voice and perhaps be judged sincere in expressing those sentiments. It'll be interesting to see what she does.