AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe addressed the Maine Republican Party Convention on Sunday for the final time as a member of Congress and urged the audience to continue pushing the GOP as the “party of potential.”
Snowe shocked Maine Republicans — and Mainers in general — when she announced in late February that her current term in the U.S. Senate would be her last.
Her exit from the race opened the door to six Republican candidates, four Democrats and three independents who hope to succeed her. The six Republicans each were expected to speak on Sunday at the convention.
Left out of Snowe’s half-hour speech were any references to the bitter partisanship in Washington, D.C., that played a large role in her decision to forgo re-election to a fourth term.
In many ways, Snowe contributed to that partisanship on Sunday by highlighting “philosophical differences” between the two major political parties.
“We believe as Republicans that the individual is more important than the state,” she said. “We believe that the great days of our past can be a stepping stone to an even greater future. We believe a job is preferential to a handout and independence is better than dependence. We believe that the private sector is more productive than big government will ever be.”
She praised the accomplishments of the Republican-controlled Maine Legislature and Gov. Paul LePage and she said she hopes that continues past the 2012 elections.
“They have made too much progress to turn back now,” Snowe said.
She talked about the importance of electing a Republican senator to replace her and join her colleague, Susan Collins. And, she said, “We must pull out all the stops to ensure that Barack Obama goes into the history books as a one-term president.”
The biggest applause came whenever Snowe mentioned Obama. She criticized his economic policies and said, “We must keep fighting until Obamacare is repealed, unless of course the Supreme Court does it first.”
Snowe also talked about the need to pass a federal balanced budget amendment. During her more than three decades in Congress she has tried 18 times but was never successful.
As the speech wound down, Snowe moved away from targeted criticism of Obama.
“In the end, it isn’t about any one person, or any one party,” she said. “In the end, it’s about the United States of America.”
When she finished speaking, the crowd stood and clapped for several moments. Many held signs that read “Thank you, Olympia.”
Many in the audience likely viewed Snowe as a RINO, or Republican in Name Only, for the long-held belief that she is one of the most moderate senators in Washington. But they treated her with respect.
Before Snowe took the stage, Gov. LePage made reference to the senator in his remarks.
“Give a her a great hand,” LePage said. “She’s really done the best she can with what she’s had to work with in Washington, which is not much.”