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Tuesday November 01, 2011 | 05:24 PM

A polling firm says that GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine is far outpacing two Tea Party Republican primary challengers in a recent poll.

Meanwhile, in a finding that could be outdated by the furor surrounding Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and sexual harassment allegations, Cain leads the GOP presidential primary field in Maine, according to the Public Policy Polling findings released today.

In Maine, Cain leads Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, with 29 percent to 24 percent for Romney and 18 percent for Gingrich, with six other GOP candidates at 5 percent or less, according to the PPP findings.

In the case of Snowe, the three-term incumbent’s “prospects for winning the Republican nomination for another term as Senator from Maine are looking the best they have in two years, in what could be a sign of Tea Party fever dwindling,” said Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen in an analysis of the findings.

PPP says it is a Democratic polling company, but notes that “polling expert Nate Silver of the New York Times found that its surveys in 2010 actually exhibited a slight bias toward Republican candidates.”

In a survey of 250 “usual” Maine GOP primary voters conducted Oct. 28-31 with a 6.2 percent margin of error, Snowe had 62 percent of the GOP primary vote compared to 10 percent for Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls and seven percent for Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell.

“Tea Partiers will have a tough time toppling Olympia Snowe in the GOP Senate primary next year,” according to PPP release announcing its findings. “Their supporters are divided between two candidates right now, and even an idealized more conservative candidate would oust Snowe only 47-46 in a generic test. That is down 24 points from 58-33 in March. Snowe’s approval rating with these voters is up 11 points to 51-37 from 47-44 in that time frame. And though both Andrew Ian Dodge and Scott D’Amboise have increased their still paltry name recognition in the last seven months, Snowe has more than doubled her margin over her nearest challenger in the named ballot test, meaning it is a referendum on her, regardless of how voters feel about her opponents.”

PPP says that in October 2009 59 percent of Maine GOP voters indicated they wanted to replace Snowe with someone more conservative, according to PPP. In September 2010, that figure was 63 percent, and in March 20100 it was 58 percent.

The poll does not address Snowe’s potential Democratic opponents.

Two Maine Democrats appear poised to enter the race to try to take on Snowe next fall: state Rep. Jon Hinck of Portland and former Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap of Old Town.

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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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