Tuesday March 08, 2011 | 02:30 PM

 A Democratic-leaning polling outfit says there’s bad news to report about Sen. Olympia Snowe’s primary prospects next year.

 The Maine Republican is in danger of being ousted by potential GOP primary voters who say they prefer a generic “more conservative” candidate, finds the Public Policy Polling’s survey released today.
While 33 percent of Maine GOP primary voters say they would support Snowe next year, that is far outstripped by the 58 percent who say they want a more conservative candidate and the same percentage who say they think she is too liberal.
“Most GOP voters don't really think Snowe belongs in their party- 34 percent think she ought to be an independent, 33 percent think she should be a Democrat, and only 27 percent feel that the GOP is indeed her rightful place,” says the PPP blog discussing the findings.
Snowe says she is a fiscal conservative, noting as one example that she has worked for a balanced budget constitutional amendment for years.
(UPDATED as of 8:10 p.m.:
John Richter, Snowe's chief of staff, responded to the poll by saying, "It's fascinating that a Democratic polling firm from North Carolina is so interested in Maine's Republican primaries, as they've been conducting this poll for two years now. This is a firm that has been inserting itself in
several Senate races with the goal of Democrats picking up these targeted Senate seats, with the hope that weaker Republican candidates who cannot win a general election are the Party's nominees.")

The PPP poll isn’t all bad news for Snowe. Its survey found Snowe’s approval rating with GOP primary voters still narrowly positive, 47-44, though the polling firm noted that is similar to other incumbent Republicans who have lost out in primaries to Tea Party movement candidates.
But there also so far is not an announced Tea Party rival to Snowe getting much support yet, either, the poll notes. Two announced challengers, Andrew Ian Doge and Scott D’Amboise, are little known.
“Snowe shouldn't take too much solace in those numbers- pretty much all of the successful Tea Party challengers last year started out relatively unknown and well behind,” PPP says. “But it does show the potential for her to survive by virtue of a split within the Tea Party ranks and it also shows that she's not so unpopular that you can just put someone on the ballot against her and they'll win- it's going to take a well run, well funded campaign.”

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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