Scott D’Amboise, who ran against Democrat Rep. Mike Michaud in 2006 and lost, is mounting a Republican primary challenge to Sen. Olympia Snowe. He joins Ian Andrew Dodge in seeking to cut off the 33-year congressional veteran from her voter base by tapping into an angry, anti-government, tea party constituency.
Sen. Snowe has certainly drifted toward more moderate positions on the issues since she first went to Washington in the late 1970s. But so has Maine. Mr. D’Amboise and Mr. Dodge both are gambling that there are more Republicans who have soured on Sen. Snowe than those who respect her willingness to break ranks with her party now and then. That’s a big gamble.
In a recent email, Mr. D’Amboise explains his candidacy was launched because “I understand that Mainers lack a legislator with the backbone to stop President Obama.” While Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have certainly flagged, a campaign strategist might remind the candidate that the president won Maine with 54 percent of the vote. And further, that Mainers have chosen the Democratic candidate in each of the last five presidential elections — that’s going all the way back to 1992.
Sen. Snowe’s backbone, metaphorically, has never been weak. It’s probably true that she has made concessions to the changing political values of her constituency, but she also has not been shy about voting against the Obama agenda.
In Mr. D’Amboise we have a candidate, yet again, who seems bent on defining himself not by what he would seek to accomplish in office, but what he would block, obstruct or fight. He also blithely sums up the complex causes of the recession, asserting it was “liberal policies that have brought us to the brink of a financial disaster.” That’s a hard sell to make, given that a Republican president had served eight years when the financial crisis hit and the GOP controlled Congress for most of that time.
While conventional political wisdom suggests Republican primary candidates run hard to the right, the strategy Mr. D’Amboise seems to be employing dooms him — as it has others on both the right and left — to preaching to a small, but loud choir. A far more interesting challenge would see him and Mr. Dodge offering their visions for the federal budget, the middle class, energy, national security and growing the economy in an increasingly complicated global marketplace.
The primary election is more than a year away. Sen. Snowe should not be immune from a challenge, but in making the case to replace her, candidates should respect her tenure by painting a fuller picture of themselves and the issues.