Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican who surprised many when she announced in March she would not be seeking re-election, says she supports Mitt Romney as the Republicanpresidential nominee and thinks he matches up well against President Obama.
Snowe has served in Congress since 1979 and is currently finishing up her third term in the Senate. She cited Congress's lack of ability--and seemingly motivation--to tackle big issues facing the nation when she announced the decision not to run for re-election.
But she said the former Massachusetts governor brings the right kind of expertise to the table.
"I think that if anybody could do it, it would be Mitt Romney, along with his fabulous wife, Ann," Snowe said in an interview. "I think that he'll be able to focus on the economy and bring his experience to bear on these consequential questions that obviously have eluded President Obama, regrettably. Now that the campaign is now between President Obama and Mitt Romney, I think that people will be able to focus on all of these issues and be able to make the comparisons. I think that Mitt Romney will be very successful in that regard."
Snowe, who is pro-choice and been an advocate for women's health during her time as a lawmaker, also bemoaned the recent partisan bickering regarding access to contraception. She said the origin of the recent debate was the Obama administration's insensitivity to providing religious institutions with some form of a conscience clause for insurance they offered. Eventually, the administration decided to craft a compromise, but she added that some Republicans were only too willing to push the issue back in time.
"That's how that whole issue initially unfolded," Snowe said. "That ultimately erupted into a broader debate on women's issues and that's why I described the whole thing as retro because I did think that it was sort of turning the clock back on so many of these issues that I thought had been resolved."
It was also fueled by the ongoing Republican presidential primary, which pitted former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a champion for the right on social issues, against the more economy-minded Romney.
"Rick Santorum had been taking a much harder line on these questions and put it at the forefront of his own campaign, so it sort of fueled the fires when this whole issue emerged," she said. "It probably had some significance in that sense because those issues were already out there that he had been, I think, forcefully and passionately describing as his own views were concerned. There was also, I think, [politics] elevating these questions about how far he was willing to go on these issues and whether or not that was reflective of the entirety of the Republican Party."
Snowe also denounced the comments made by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on CNN recently. Rosen had attempted to deride Ann Romney by saying she had "never worked a day in her life." Ann Romney, who has spent time working with charities and suffers from multiple sclerosis, stayed at home and raised five boys while her husband made a living running his own company.
Snowe called Rosen's comments "unfortunate."
"What we want in our society is for women to have choices, and women have to make some very difficult decisions at all times because they have these dual roles in so many ways between home and the workplace," she said. "So I regret that that issue was even raised. It's all difficult. And that's what I worked to change along with some of my female colleagues when I first came to the House on this very question--making sure that the federal laws did not discriminate against women in any way for the choices they made and for the dual roles that they had to play."
- Read: Gingrich to end presidential campaign next week.
- Check out a slideshow of women in the Senate.
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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.