From Freeport to Skowhegan, from Portland to Damariscotta, the anger, disgust and sheer frustration were palpable when Mainers were asked last week to describe their feelings about what’s going on in Washington, D.C.

Many Mainers believe that national leaders — some blame congressional Republicans while others point the finger at Democrats and President Obama — are more interested in partisan gridlock, ideological warfare and political brinksmanship than in compromising to find pragmatic solutions to the country’s ever-more pressing problems.

Does that mean Maine’s members of Congress who appear on the ballot in 2012 will bear the brunt of all that frustration, that Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe and Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree will be swept out?

Not so fast.

It would be a mistake for anyone challenging Snowe, Michaud or Pingree to think they would coast to victory on an anti-incumbent wave. The waters for challengers — other than two tea party-affiliated primary challengers to Snowe, none of the incumbents has an announced opponent yet — will be rough in Maine.

Maine’s incumbents may have tougher races than usual. They may have to sweat a bit more than they did in their last races, when Pingree and Michaud won handily in 2010 and Snowe won a whopping 74 percent of the vote and a third Senate term in 2006.

Pingree and Michaud also are looking at congressional districts that could change dramatically if a GOP-authored plan is approved, though that’s no sure bet.

Michaud appears likely to be in the trickiest spot in 2012, particularly if GOP voters are added to his mostly rural swing district and if Maine Senate President Kevin Raye of Perry runs against him.

So, the only Maine lawmaker truly bearing a relaxed smile last week was Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who doesn’t have to run again until 2014.

Much of the venom aimed at “Congress” and “Washington” seems to dissipate when Mainers are asked how their own representatives are doing.

It’s probably no surprise that Ralph Turner of Freeport is high on Pingree, a member of the House Agriculture Committee who spent time on Turner’s Laughing Stock Farm last week, hearing about improved irrigation techniques during a session of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society.

Turner’s a Democrat, but even if he weren’t, Pingree, being a member of the agriculture committee and having a seat at the table when any new farm bill is shaped, “is a dream come true for all of us,” he said.

Ask Turner about Snowe, and you don’t hear any complaints, either.

Noting that Snowe is a member of the Senate Small Business Committee (she is the top Republican on the committee), Turner said she is “very supportive of our business. I appreciate what she’s done. I don’t agree with anyone all the time ... but there is no reason I would not vote for her.”

During breakfast at Jorgensen’s Cafe in Waterville, Kelley Wynne, a board trustee of Maine Veterans’ Homes and a retired Army master sergeant, was happy to see Michaud come by during a morning spent walking around downtown Waterville.

Michaud, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, hopes he is close to helping pass legislation raising the reimbursement rate the federal government pays veterans’ homes like those in Maine, which is crucial to their ability to continue taking in eligible veterans.

“We’re very happy with the job Mike’s doing with veterans in Maine,” Wynne said, noting that the state has about 158,000 veterans.

Wynne, who said he’s a Democrat who votes for the candidate and not the party, said he backs Snowe, too.

“She votes her conscience,” Wynne said. “She is for the people of Maine.”

Wynne said people are so disgusted with what’s going on in Washington, and so upset about the continued economic volatility and employment, that even Maine incumbents “are on a tightrope.”

But it’s a tightrope that he thinks Michaud can navigate, with his successes on veterans issues, and one that is perhaps less tricky for Snowe.

“I don’t see someone challenging Snowe,” Wynne said, adding that he doesn’t know anything about her GOP primary challengers, Scott D’Amboise of Lisbon Falls and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell.

At the Skowhegan State Fair, where Snowe spent time walking around Wednesday afternoon, she spotted state Rep. Larry Dunphy of Embden, a conservative Republican who is serving his first term in the Legislature.

Dunphy isn’t happy that Republicans in Congress agreed to any increase at all in the federal debt ceiling, and he buttonholed Snowe.

Snowe responded that while she voted to raise the debt ceiling as part of a deal cutting spending by $917 billion now and by at least $1.2 trillion later this year, she isn’t happy with the work of the Senate, either.

“No one wants to govern anymore,” Snowe said. “They just want to fight; it’s all about politics.”

But, Snowe told an angry Dunphy, who isn’t a career politician who would support Snowe just because of her party, “I will do everything I can to make a difference. I want better for America.”

Said Dunphy: “I know you do.”

In Damariscotta, where Snowe did one of her Maine Street walks on Thursday, Jane Ross, a salesperson at a local store, said she is sickened by the poisonous partisanship in Washington. Ross, a Democrat, laid much of the blame at the feet of House Republicans, particularly the tea party-backed House freshmen who refused to compromise on adding any tax revenue to the mix as part of the debt ceiling deal.

Unlike many Republicans in Washington, Snowe and Collins appear to be more willing to compromise, Ross said.

Ross has voted for Snowe in the past, and while she will wait to see who runs against her next year, she thinks she is likely to vote for Snowe again.

Snowe is “very level-headed, she thinks things through,” Ross said.

While she’s disgusted with Congress as a whole, Ross is satisfied with the work being done in Washington by her own lawmakers, from liberal Democrat Pingree to moderate Republican Snowe.

“They wouldn’t have stayed in office as long as they have if Maine didn’t think they weren’t representing everyone’s interests, one way or the other,” Ross said.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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