Will Olympia Snowe get Scozzafava'd?
New polling out of Maine shows that a solid 59 percent of likely Republican voters would back a primary challenge to Olympia Snowe. "This means that when you’re thinking about whether Snowe will support a bill or not, the issue ultimately comes down to not triggers versus non-triggers, or employer mandates versus free rider fees, but whether Snowe wants to remain a Republican or not," comments Matt Yglesias. "Based on this polling, a Snowe who votes for a comprehensive health care overhaul is basically not going to be viable as a GOP primary candidate."
I'm not so sure. Snowe isn't up for reelection until 2012. This polling shows that in 2009, at a moment of maximal heterodoxy, Snowe isn't popular among her state's Republican voters. But if she shapes up in 2011 and really nails the Obama administration? Hard to say. I can think of a lot of senators who have lost reelection in recent years. I can't think of any who lost because of a vote they cast three years before the campaign.
The flip side of this is that you'd think senators would amass radically different voting records in the first year or two of their terms, and slowly come into alignment with their state as they approach reelection. I'm not aware of much evidence that this happens, and I'm certainly not seeing any in this debate. That may mean that voters are actually pretty good at picking politicians who represent them or that politicians are scared of doing things that will trigger reprisals from institutional actors with longer memories (like the Club for Growth) or that politicians have firm ideologies that they're not particularly interested in betraying. Or maybe some combination of the three. But I'd be very careful with any polls that use a 2009 survey to project the fortunes of a 2012 candidate.
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