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Morning Fix: Being Olympia Snowe

Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is at the center of the health care storm. AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach

As the health care debate enters its final stretch, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has emerged as the focal point not only of the White House's attempts to make the final bill a bipartisan affair but also for liberals who want the so-called public option in the legislation.

On Monday, two liberal groups -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America -- began a $100,000 ad buy in Maine and Washington, D.C. urging Snowe to reverse her past public position in opposition to a health care plan with a government option included.

That ad campaign comes just days after a New York Times story detailing the long courtship of Snowe by President Obama and his senior aides.

And, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) on Monday was re-structuring the affordability elements of his health care bill to suit Snowe in advance of today's hearing on the legislation.

How did Snowe become the central player in the central fight of the first year (term?) of the Obama administration?

There's no one reason but several elements of Snowe's legislative -- and electoral -- background help to explain her current high profile role.

First, Snowe -- unlike many moderates of both parties -- has absolutely no electoral worries. She has held office in Maine for more than three decades straight and has won reelection with 74 percent and 69 percent in her last two races, respectively. Even Democrats acknowledge that challenging Snowe in Maine is a fool's errand, as she is too entrenched and too popular to justify spending any time or money in a race against her.

And, as the Post's Paul Kane points out, the social conservative movements that have roiled many state Republican parties in the past several decades have never touched Maine -- meaning that Snowe worries little about being challenged from her ideological right for the stances she takes in the Senate.

(A counterpoint on Snowe's popularity: In a recent poll conducted for the liberal Daily Kos blog, Snowe had solid but not spectacular approval ratings.)

Second, Snowe has been around politics -- particularly at the federal level -- for a VERY long time and knows the ins and outs of the legislative process. She was first elected to Maine's 2nd district in 1978 and won a Senate seat 16 years later. Snowe knows where -- and when -- to push the administration for concessions. Her opposition to the public option is based, at least in part, on her belief that a bill with that provision included would not attract any GOP support and would further the stagnation that has settled over the Senate when it comes to health care. (For a detailed explanation of how Snowe is working to change the bill -- via amendments -- to make it more pass-able, check out Ezra Klein's largely favorable treatment of the matter.)

Third, Snowe has been in this position before. During the presidency of George W. Bush she was regularly the lone -- or one of the only -- Republican voices working to check the agenda coming out of the White House. That role means that Snowe is as immune as any politician can be to the cross-pressures she is currently receiving -- from conservatives who want her to hold the line in opposition to the health care plan and from liberals who want her to go even further in her willingness to cooperate with Democrats. Having weathered these storms in the past, Snowe is less likely to cave to either side.

For these reasons (and others), Snowe's vote is regarded as the "yea" or "nay" that can make or break the president's number one legislative priority. A vote in support of a final bill would give it the patina of bipartisanship that the White House covets. If Snowe opposes a final bill, it could well force Democrats to extreme legislative measures to pass the legislation before 2010 rolls around.

Tuesday's Fix Picks:

1. Baucus adjusts.
2. The White House wades into the political mix in a major way.
3. Gov. Jim Ramstad?
4. Tim Griffin is running for Congress in Arkansas.
5. Tom DeLay dances with the stars.

Deeds Keeps Pushing On Thesis: One day after a Washington Post poll showed state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D) gaining on former state attorney general Bob McDonnell (R) in the Virginia governor's race, Deeds went up with two new harsh -- but effective -- ads hammering the GOP nominee on his now famous/infamous master thesis. In one ad, a narrator notes that McDonnell was 34 when he wrote the thesis and that it included proposals to restrict birth control "even for married adults." In the other commercial, a series of women hit McDonnell. "We've seen your ads and heard your excuses," says one woman. Another says McDonnell's record "troubles me." The ads are an indication that, as expected, Deeds is going to continue to focus his campaign on McDonnell's thesis in an attempt to paint the Republican nominee as outside of the Virginia mainstream.

Democrat Owens Up With Ads in NY-23 Special: With Rep. John McHugh (R) formally confirmed as secretary of the army, the special election race to replace him has begun in earnest with attorney Bill Owens (D) now on TV with an ad introducing him to the North Country voters. The ad highlights Owens's military background -- he served as a captain at Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the district -- and his work to try to create jobs at the base once it closed. Owens closes the commercial by promising to "fight for what matters and right now we need to fight for Upstate New York." The ad, which was produced by Murphy Putnam Media, is very similar -- from a message standpoint -- to the way Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) positioned himself in a special election in Upstate New York earlier this year. Owens faces off against state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) and businessman Doug Hoffman (Conservative) in a shortened race. McHugh formally resigned his seat on Monday and Gov. David Paterson -- yes, him -- is charged with setting a date for the special. The expectation is it will coincide with the Nov. 3 election.

McCain Endorses Moran: Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) is throwing his support behind Rep. Jerry Moran in the Kansan's Senate primary fight against fellow Rep. Todd Tiahrt. McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee, praised Moran's "proven record of fiscal responsibility" in offering his support. McCain is the latest in a series of senators -- John Thune (S.D.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.) among them -- to back Moran. Tiahrt also has his share of endorsements including from former House speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and former Kansas representative Jim Ryun. Both candidates are trying to paint themselves as the true conservative in the contest and polling suggests the race is tight. Given that Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s, whoever wins the GOP primary will have a major leg up next fall.

Click It!: Missed Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R) speech to the Value Voters Summit on Friday? Here's the key moment -- appeasement! -- that helped Tpaw into a three-way tie for third in the Summit's 2012 straw poll.

Bush Hearts Rubio : Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) said he "admired" both former state House speaker Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist -- the party's two candidates for Senate -- but made no secret of his support for Rubio's bid. "I think he should be given a chance," Bush said in an address at the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club, according to a report in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "I think that the idea that the national party would pick a winner a year and a half before an election is the wrong way to go." While Bush hasn't officially endorsed in the race, it's long been clear he prefers Rubio. Bush and Crist have long had chilly relations and although the national party has lined up behind the governor, many of Bush's former aides are publicly (and privately) behind Rubio. The former speaker could use a public endorsement from Bush as it might jumpstart what has been a very sluggish fundraising effort to date.

Say What?: I think it's important to realize that i was actually black before the election." -- President Obama responds to the idea that some conservatives dislike him because of his race during an interview with late night talk show host David Letterman.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 22, 2009; 5:09 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Paterson: Doomed or Determined?
Next: Short Takes: Ready on Day One?


He was an excellent student of the Karl Rove School of Dirty Dealing. Can you imagine what he might have done if he had been in the D of Justice for more than 5 months?

People dismissed that as just the President getting to chose who his ADAs were. There was much more involved than that. When they had an easily identifiable sleeze ball like Griffin, they just appointed him to the post and never put him in for confirmation. Just remove capable ADAs (who aren't serving your agenda by pursuing voter fraud among minorities and ignoring bigger frauds done in the name of profit) and replace them with party hacks who do the bidding of the RNC! Then the Department of Justice becomes the Department of the Permanent Republican Majority

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 22, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Tim Griffin is one of those accused of involvement in Voter Caging.

This was a method to remove voters from the electoral role. It particulary targets serving soldiers.

It uses Direct Mail with a No Forwarding element and has been declared illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

Attached to Tim Griffin's RNC emails are caging lists which include deployed African-American soldiers. There was a total of 50,000 Florida names on the email attachment lists that were later confirmed to have been illegally caged (invalidated), by the RNC.

Posted by: walker1 | September 22, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Wonder who the heck Tim Griffin is?

Posted by: walker1 | September 22, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Tim Griffin, Rove's pet. Rove's eagerness to find Griffin a job brought down Rove, Gonzalez, Sampson, McNulty, Goodling, etc. etc.

So he's supposed to remind us of the Golden Days of the Republican Party? He comes with an awful lot of baggage.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 22, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

What in the world is wrong with all the ones that are against the Conservatives. Do all of you understand that we are going to be a Socialist nation if we sit around on our behinds and try to stop all of this Pork Barrel Spending. Obama just sent bill #HB1388 an amount of $2.3 million to Pakinstan to help them with what they need the money. What in the world has happened to the Stimulus Money that should have gone to the poor people that lost their homes and jobs. Our country is going to be a Muslim Communist nation if you people don't get in gear and stop making very mean and ugly comments against the Conservatives that are in the WH. The government will tell us exactly how much money we can have, how much to spend, all your personal information and health info. I would have rather had John McCain and Sarah Palin anytime than have what we have now. Obama is against the American people and he will do everything he can to keep the American people from having anything. We will be in the Soup Lines and then how will all of you fill. Something is wrong upstairs when you people want to thank Obama for what he has done. He has done nothing but put the American people further and further in debt. Get a life and start thinking about having a wonderful America again. If all of you aren't happy with the US I'm sure Iran will welcome you there.

Posted by: snickers141 | September 22, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

For anyone interested in debating McDonnell's Thesis, including proposals to restrict birth control "even for married adults":

Posted by: JakeD | September 22, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

So Rove's favourite little US attorney is actually going to run for office? BIG SURPRISE---not. Another fine example of nepotism, and cronyism, two words used to the nth degree during Bushco. Hey people in Arkansas, do you really want to elect someone who is closely associated with "Bush's brain"?

Posted by: katem1 | September 22, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it's not just that they're saying no, it's also the way they're saying no.

The Saudis twice said no to his request for normalization gestures towards Israel (at Barack Obama's meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, and in Washington at meetings with Hillary Clinton). Who says no to the American president twice? What must they think of Obama in the desert kingdom?

The North Koreans said no to repeated attempts at talks, by test-launching long-range missiles in April; Russia and China keep on saying no to tougher sanctions on Iran; the Iranians keep saying no to offers of talks by saying they're willing to talk about everything except a halt to uranium enrichment; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is saying no by refusing to meet with Binyamin Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction; the Israelis said no by refusing to agree to a settlement freeze, or even a settlement moratorium until and unless the Arabs ante up their normalization gestures. Which brings us back to the original Saudi no.

Liberal leadership and effectiveness and its results. quagmire of no.

Posted by: snowbama | September 22, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Snowe didn't support the Baucus plan as it was rolled out, but it is already being modified. Despite her safe seat, she doesn't want to be the *only* R voting for it. With Specter now a D, that leaves fellow Mainer Collins as a possible cohort.

C'mon, Dems. Put together a cohesive plan and push it through. Let the R's vote for it or not, but get it done.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 22, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

If our foreign adversaries believe America will not respond to aggression, we'll get more aggression.

In 1956, Hungarian freedom fighters believed the United States would come to their aid against the occupying Soviets. When we didn't the tanks rolled in and many were killed. When President Kennedy met Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961, Khrushchev concluded that Kennedy was weak. This conclusion precipitated the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly led to nuclear war. Then there was Vietnam, which some still believe America abandoned before it finished the job. Osama bin Laden believes this. He has cited Vietnam as his main reason for believing he can outlast the U.S. in the terrorist war.

Posted by: snowbama | September 22, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I think BB meant the little tank commander from MA who will become the interim senator.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 22, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

We need more senators like Olympia Snowe. She's thoughtful and knowledgeable. She and Susan Collins make the case that a Republican from Maine is very different than a Republican from Oklahoma. I, as a Democrat, do not want 100 Democratic senators. I want a balance of thoughtful and knowledgeable representatives ... you know, like Olympia Snowe.

FairlingtonBlade, when you said "Dukakis," did you get the wrong Olympia?

Posted by: dognabbit | September 22, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

CC, the Daily Kos poll numbers are not spectacular for Snowe, but compared to overall congressional approval, they are stellar. No serious D is going to go against her, even in a D environment.

Your main point, that Snowe isn't going anywhere, is correct. And I don't have any problem with that. As an endangered species, moderates (R and D) deserve a little protection.

Posted by: yeswiican | September 22, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Resort to "Extreme legislative measures..." ???

Is that like the majority exercising its perfectly legal and appropriate prerogative to act in the public interest?

As was done in the past to pass Medicare and other laws that a vocal minority attempted to defeat?

How dare they!



Access to health care doesn't help untold thousands of unjustly targeted Americans recover from the devastating physiological effects of being silently irradiated by microwave and laser radiation "directed energy weapons"...

...the weaponization of the electromagnetic spectrum, a silent "final solution" that may have the nation's political leadership in its ideological cross-hairs.

This technology is capable of altering moods, emotions, inducing fatigue, weakness, exhaustion, confusion, life-altering injury, disease and a slow-kill death.

And key elements of the Obama administration -- chief among them the defense/security/intel establishment -- are proliferating these technologies by various electronic modalities.

American citizens and families targeted by this covert torture matrix also are subject to financial sabotage that decimates their livelihoods and financial resources...

...and relentless "community stalking" -- harassment, surreptitious home entries and vandalism by government-enabled vigilantes affiliated with federally-funded community policing and anti-terrorism organizations.

Warrantless, covert placement of GPS tracking devices and misuse of cell phone technology to hunt down the unjustly targeted enables this grassroots terrorism.

But the Obama administration continues to allow these warrantless intrusions into the lives of unjustly targeted American families.

By its naivete -- its unquestioning rubber-stamp approval of the deployment of these destructive technologies and programs -- the Obama administration is presiding over the destruction of democracy, the rule of law, and personal liberty.

The bureaucratic saboteurs and Dr. Strangeloves behind these multi-agency crimes against humanity and the Constitution must be removed from power, immediately, before this silent genocide claims more victims -- endangering the Obama presidency while making a mockery of the rule of law.

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | September 22, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I doubt that Snowe will vote for the Baucus plan, because that won't make it out of committee. However, this will serve as an interesting starting point. If the blue dogs hold together in the House, they might be able to force a plan closer to that of the Senate through.

The opening statements were interesting. Grassley was effusive in his praise of Baucus. Now the negotiations move out in the open and beyond 6.

My guess. Plan approved 62 - 37 (with Dukakis voting aye and Byrd absent).


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 22, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

DeLay, the pest exterminator is as bad a dancer as he was a congressman.

Posted by: jama452 | September 22, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Andy, thanx.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 22, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if there is any scandal (I haven't heard of one), but the guy looks like a legitimate challenger (lawyer, worked in the Bush white house, Major in the Army reserve, etc) I don't think he'll win because as you say Little Rock is a solid democratic seat, but it does show that the GOPers thinking. I think they are hoping this next election will be another wave election (ie 94) and that the more legitimate challengers they have in place the better.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 22, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Snowe is an excellent Senator.

Fix Pick #4 is interesting. That a R has entered the race for Congress from a district dominated by the D stronghold of Little Rock should not be newsworthy in itself. So I wonder if there is another story here I missed, such as a scandal for the D, or redistricting that divided the LR vote [a la DeLay cutting Austin into small parts of 5 CDs].

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 22, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I think Snowe in the end votes for the Baucus plan. She may be entrenched but I would be willing to bet that she is hearing strong support for healthcare reform from the folks in Maine. Plus she knows that the democrats can pass most of this without any GOP support and she doesn't want to set that precedent.

The NY-23 is going to be an interesting race. The district is very red in general layout (it includes Fort Drum and is mostly rural in nature), but the split between the Conservative party and Republican over the choice of Dede Scozzafava by the GOP gives the Democrats a window of oppurtunity. Also the democrat that is running was a registered Independent and has pretty moderate views.
I think this race could give an indication of how strong the far right conservative movement is within the GOP. If Hoffman gets above 20% then I think Owens (D) wins, and that would the first sign that the far right is hijacking the GOP, which will culminate with the nomination of someone like Palin or Huckabee as the nominee in 2012.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 22, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Off topic, I'm really enjoying the Post/Boeing leadership ads when I open my on-line Post. Who are those bright eyed lads with the -ahem- eating grins?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 22, 2009 6:06 AM | Report abuse

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