There have been rumblings that a powerful challenger could take the Republican nomination from Senator Olympia Snowe. Those rumblings are beginning to increase in volume again. On November 12th, Brian Bolduc wrote in the National Review that he had knowledge of a conservative opponent ready to step up to Snowe. Bolduc said this person did come from the Tea Party movement and was “serious about this”. This past weekend, Tea Party Patriots coordinator Andrew Ian Dodge told Roll Call he had had extensive conversations with the challenger. Pine Tree Politics has received information from reliable sources that Dodge has been spending a lot of time talking with himself.
Despite assertions to the contrary, sources close to the situation say that Dodge confirmed he would be taking on Snowe for the GOP senate nomination. Dodge never completely ruled out that he was running in his conversations with the Roll Call. The best answer he could provide was that he had “no immediate plans to run for office.” Technically, if our sources are correct, he could most certainly spin that phrase once he announces his run.
What about Dodge’s other comments to the Roll Call? Dodge said the challenger had never run for office, but had strong name recognition. Dodge has appeared in many publications and occasionally on local network affiliate news. He writes for the Daily Caller, Washington Examiner, and Pajamas Media. It is not a stretch to say Dodge is one of, if not the most highly visible Tea Partier in Maine. The challenger is from Southern Maine. Dodge lives in Portland. This mystery contender has the funding to become a viable opponent according to Dodge. There are a lot of ways to interpret that statement and it certainly doesn’t disqualify Dodge.
None of these roads lead away from Dodge. Combine that with the information from Pine Tree Politics’ sources then it is likely that Dodge is indeed the mystery challenger.
If Dodge, or anyone else for that matter, wants a chance to unset Snowe, then they must act strategically. A challenger to Snowe would need to generate a large amount of buzz surrounding their entrance to gain any traction against the longtime Senator. By creating a mystery surrounding the challenger, Dodge is hoping to create an interesting story that media outlets will pick up and run with. All of these little hints and rumors get people talking. One could call this the Gabbo Effect.
Dodge has also done a good job of trying to make anyone who reports on this look like the bad guy. He stated the challenger would not be forced out by the press. ““Of course Snowe’s people want to know who it is, so they can take their machine and aim it at him and trash him,” Dodge told Roll Call. Dodge also said the campaign was going to be “bloody and messy and not very polite.”
No challenger to Snowe will be receiving any help from the Blaine House. Governor-Elect Paul LePage said he would back Snowe no matter who stepped up to oppose her.
Snowe must be breathing a sigh of relief right now, if she was ever worried at all. If Dodge is indeed one of Snowe’s challengers he is not off to a great start. Much of his time so far has been devoted interviews and attacking fellow Republicans. Should Doge actually run, this has done little to build Dodge’s credibility to defeat Snowe and the subsequent Democratic challenger. Nor will Dodge’s actions so far help him attract the capital needed to run a statewide campaign.
Dodge also has the added task of overcoming the fear of a split, and therefore weakened Maine GOP and of a tea party member being the face Maine GOP. The state party does not want to see themselves fractured now that they are finally in power. That could present a perfect opportunity for state Democrats to step in and reclaim the legislature. Certainly many Maine GOP members feel it would be better to keep any weaknesses private than to provide the opposition with ammunition. Many Republicans do not want to see Dodge represent their party in the state and national media. Any challengers to Snowe are sure to get coverage on the pundit circuit. That could be two or more months of coverage leading up to the primary. A lot of damage can be done in two hours, let alone two months.
Another comfort to Snowe is that whoever the mystery challenger is will be splitting the vote with another tea partier, Scott D’Ambroise. While Dodge and D’Ambroise would likely share the more extreme elements of the state party, Snowe would likely be able to garner enough support from moderate Republicans and the party faithful to win the GOP nomination. There are also whispers among Tea Partiers that D’Ambroise is not one of them. Some have begun to point out that D’Ambroise has run before and is only trying to ride the tea party wave. Possible infighting over Dodge and D’Ambroise among tea party Republicans is a good sign for Snowe.
Sources have also told Pine Tree that there is yet another possible candidate who is considering a primary run. This candidate is rumored to have little money and heavy baggage, but many helpful connections. Add Dodge’s slow start – if he is truly the mystery contender – competition with D’Ambroise and a possible fourth primary contender, plus party interests aligning against Dodge, and the outcome is likely a win for Snowe.
Pine Tree Politics will continue watching this race for further developments.