In a highly polarized, winner-takes-all, "damn-what's-right-do-whatever-helps-our-side-win" national political scene, Maine's Republican Party has long been an anachronism: a bastion of moderate centrists succeeding in the bluest of American regions. While the national party fell under the control of the Christian Right and Dixie oligarchy decades ago, Maine's G.O.P. has continued to put forward people in the old Nelson Rockefeller mold: Margaret Chase Smith and Bill Cohen, Jock McKernan,and Olympia Snowe. In Maine, it seemed, the center still held.
But with the volatile "Tea Party" crowd having succeeded in rewriting the party platform, securing their preferred gubernatorial candidate the party nomination, and taking over county committees, one wonders if the centrists have finally met their Waterloo.
My piece in the new Down East asks if the moderates have finally lost control of the party, with input from Cohen, former party chairman Robert A.G. Monks, vanquished gubernatorial candidate Peter Mills, triumphant candidate Paul LePage, Tea Party activist Andrew Ian Dodge, the conservative retired Bangor Daily News political columnist John Day, and others.
The answer, you'll see, depends on whom you talk to.
One correction: Sen. Snowe would face a possible primary challenge in 2012, not "next year" as I wrote in the piece. The oversight is mine.