Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe Shocks D.C. With Retirement Announcement

One of the Senate's moderate figures is bowing out, opening the door for Dems in the upcoming election

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Another Senate moderate has decided it's time to retire, and it could mean good things for Democrats come November.

Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe will retire from the Senate, according to the Washington Post. The three-term senator—one of the few remaining centrist New England Republicans—was facing a tough, but by no means insurmountable, path to re-election in 2012.

The Tea Party was primed to target Snowe, who has a habit of splitting with her party to side with the Democrats. Even if Snowe survived the primary, she would have faced steep Democratic opposition.

Maine has long nurtured a reputation for quirky independence—Ron Paul almost won its Republican primary, for instance—but as the parties have shifted, the state has become reliably Democratic.

"Obama will very probably win Maine in November, and Maine Democrats—who have a full bench of high-profile Senate candidates—are likely to benefit," says Larry Sabato, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia.

Whoever wins the Republican nomination will likely face State Sen. Cynthia Dill, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, or State Rep. Jon Hinck.

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    Twitter: @AlexParkerDC