How Much Can Snowe Take?

A couple months back I suggested that Maine Senator Olympia Snowe should jump over to the Democrats. I swear the Republicans are trying their damnedest to make her do it.

Last week, RNC chair Michael Steele said on FOXNews that he would consider denying funds for, or backing primary opponents against, the three moderate Republican Senators who voted for the stimulus bill -- Snowe, fellow Mainer Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

The three Senators were reportedly a bit peeved, as you can imagine. Roll Call reported that a furious Snowe approached Steele and demanded: "You didn't really mean that, did you?"

If Steele was conciliatory to her at the time, that quickly changed; perhaps something to do with Rush Limbaugh showing him exactly who's boss -- and how hard-line conservative you've got to be to keep the boss happy.

After kissing Rush's ring, Steele went on Laura Ingraham's radio show today, and declared that he is "not backing down" from his threat to the three moderates, according to Politico. Apparently Steele said that if the state parties want to back a primary challenger, the national party will go along with them.

Snowe is not up for re-election until 2012, and Collins is safe until 2014. Specter, however, is up in 2010 -- and Club for Growth president Pat Toomey, a hard-line supply-side conservative who had previously said he would not challenge Specter in the GOP primary, is now suddenly, since Steele's comments, publicly reversing course and talking about running.

And oh yes, Club for Growth just awarded its "Comrade of the Month" for February to guess who? The trio of Specter, Snowe and Collins. (This is the second awarding of the new prize; the first went to Barney Frank.) I'm sure this just tickles Snowe pink, or pinko, you might say. I am thus far unaware of Steele or any other Republican leader condemning the Club for calling its own Senators -- three of the only 41 they've got -- commies. I guess Rush wouldn't like that.

There's not much Specter can do -- there are too many Pennsylvania Democrats who want that seat for themselves (and are drooling over an easy win over Toomey) for him to switch and run.

But Snowe is running out of reasons to stay loyal. My Portland colleagues can tell me if I'm wrong, but I think if she switches to Ind. or Dem., either way she's free and clear for re-election if she wants it in four years.

If the party really does withhold funds from Specter, if it really does stand by while she gets called "comrade" -- if the GOP really doesn't understand that the Maine-electable moderation of Snowe and Collins are the only reason the Republicans have any voice at all in the United States federal government -- well..... All I can say is I don't know the Senator very well, but I've known a number of Mainers over the years, and you only have to push them so many times before they'll make you sorry you messed with them.

So keep pushing, you brilliant Republicans!

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