Bombshell: Olympia Snowe to retire; Update: The plot thickens

Just across at CNN. No details yet, but Fox reporter Trish Turner is tweeting bits of what she claims is Snowe’s statement. Quote:

“I have no doubt I would have won re-election”

“I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”

“…what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”

“I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern”

Don’t get too excited to see a RINO go. Nate Silver tweets, “We had estimated GOP’s chances of holding Maine senate at 85% before. Maybe 20-30% now after Snowe retirement.” Taking back the Senate just got a lot harder. Stand by for updates.

Update: In case you’re tempted to think she quit to deny tea partiers the pleasure of tossing her out, Roll Call had the seat rated “safe Republican” and a PPP poll taken in November had her favorable rating among GOP primary voters at 51/37, up from 47/44 last March. Losing her is like losing Scott Brown, but like Brown, Snowe was a no vote on ObamaCare. If this seat turns blue, repeal just became less likely.

Update: For an early inkling of Snowe’s disgruntlement, go back and read this post from September 2010 about her lamenting “ideological purity” after the defeat of Mike Castle in Delaware. I wondered at the time whether she might bypass the primary altogether by going independent and forming some sort of new Senate indie caucus with Lieberman, Scott Brown, Collins, Murkowski, Ben Nelson, etc. That could have been the nucleus for greater centrist influence in Congress, and maybe even the germ of a third-party movement. Instead, she’ll likely end up being replaced by an orthodox Democrat. Oh well.

Update: So perfectly does her statement coincide with David Brooks’s column this morning, I have to wonder if they weren’t coordinated. Says Brooksy, first they came for the RINOs…

But where have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing? Where were they during the rise of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck? Where were they when Arizona passed its beyond-the-fringe immigration law? Where were they in the summer of 2011 when the House Republicans rejected even the possibility of budget compromise? They were lying low, hoping the unpleasantness would pass.

The wingers call their Republican opponents RINOs, or Republican In Name Only. But that’s an insult to the rhino, which is a tough, noble beast. If RINOs were like rhinos, they’d stand up to those who seek to destroy them. Actually, what the country needs is some real Rhino Republicans. But the professional Republicans never do that. They’re not rhinos. They’re Opossum Republicans. They tremble for a few seconds then slip into an involuntary coma every time they’re challenged aggressively from the right…

Leaders of a party are supposed to educate the party, to police against its worst indulgences, to guard against insular information loops. They’re supposed to define a creed and establish boundaries. Republican leaders haven’t done that. Now the old pious cliché applies:

First they went after the Rockefeller Republicans, but I was not a Rockefeller Republican. Then they went after the compassionate conservatives, but I was not a compassionate conservative. Then they went after the mainstream conservatives, and there was no one left to speak for me.

Rhinos, possums: Is there an animal that gets indignant before committing suicide to prove a point so that we have an analogy for Snowe?

Update: Via Slublog, this blogger at the Bangor Daily News says something’s suspicious here: “There is very obviously something going on here behind the scenes, since Senator Snowe was so aggressively campaigning for re-election, and in full campaign mode for the last year. Decisions like this – being so very much running (and winning) to very much not – do not happen this abruptly in politics. Ever.”

More, from a separate post: “I am told her own staff was unaware of this decision until just hours before the statement went out – just long enough to actually work on the release and send it out.”

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