Yesterday we showed that Olympia Snowe would have a very difficult time winning the Republican nomination for another term in the Senate from Maine. Our general election numbers in the state show that there is one easy way she could return to the body in 2013 though- running as an independent. In four match ups we tested that included Snowe as an independent along with a Democrat (we looked at Rosa Scarcelli and Emily Cain) and a Republican (we looked at Scott D'Amboise and Andrew Ian Dodge) she gets anywhere from 54-57% of the vote, finishing in first place with Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.
Despite her mediocre numbers within her own party, Snowe's overall approval rating of 60% to 32% disapproval makes her one of the most popular Senators in the country. That's because her numbers with Democrats (67% approval) and independents (63% approval) far outrun her standing with Republicans (just 49% approval.)
Running as an independent Snowe would get her highest level of support from independents, followed by Democrats, and then by Republicans. With Scott D'Amboise as the Republican and Emily Cain as the Democrats she leads by 33 points at 54%, leading Cain by 22 with Democrats, D'Amboise by 5 with Republicans, and D'Amboise by 48 with independents. With D'Amboise as the Republican and Rosa Scarcelli as the Democrat she leads by 36 points at 56%, leading Scarcelli by 29 with Democrats, D'Amboise by 7 with Republicans, and D'Amboise by 51 with independents. With Andrew Ian Dodge as the Republican and Cain as the Democrat Snowe leads by 37 points at 56%, leading Cain by 30 with Democrats, Dodge by 8 with Republicans, and Dodge by 51 with independents. And with Dodge as the Republican and Scarcelli as the Democrat she leads by 38 points at 57%, leading Scarcelli by 33 with Democrats, Dodge by 7 with Republicans, and Dodge by 53 with independents.
If Snowe did get out of the Republican primary she leads by even wider margins in head to head match ups with the two Democrats. It's a 44 point lead over Cain at 64-20 and a 48 point lead over Scarcelli at 66-18. Snowe wins the Democratic vote even in a head to head with these Democrats- by 17 points over Cain and 22 points over Scarcelli- as well as cleaning up with the Republican and independent votes.
In the event that Snowe was taken out in the primary the match ups between the little known Republicans and the little known Democrats are close with high numbers of undecideds. Cain ties D'Amboise and leads Dodge by 2, while Scarcelli trails Dodge by 4 and D'Amboise by 7. Anywhere from 34-38% of voters aren't sure who they would vote for in each of those match ups.
If Snowe continues on as a Republican this is a race that an ambitious Democrat who doesn't have a ton to lose should really look at. Obviously if Snowe emerges as the Republican nominee you're going to lose and you're going to lose by a lot. If Snowe ends up running as an independent you're probably going to lose and you're probably going to lose by a lot. But if Snowe stays the course and gets taken out you might become Chris Coons- a guy who was willing to throw his name in the hat when it looked impossible and ended up coasting to an easy general election victory.
For Snowe there's a hard route to reelection and an easy one- it'll be interesting to see if she sticks with the hard one.
Full results here