Sen. Snowe dwarfs tea party opponent in fundraising

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) brought in some big bucks for her reelection campaign in the last three months, dwarfing the amount brought in by Scott D'Amboise, her main tea party challenger. But she's not out of the woods yet.

Snowe raised more than $1 million in the last quarter and has $2.7 million cash on hand, according to multiple sources. D'Amboise brought in more than $100,000, enough to start building a campaign but not enough to truly scare the incumbent, at least at this point. His campaign has yet to release cash-on-hand figures. Another tea party candidate, Andrew Ian Dodge, has not yet released his fundraising totals.

Snowe, a moderate, has topped 60 percent of the vote in all four of her Senate wins in this left-leaning state. She took nearly three quarters of the vote in the Democratic year of 2006. But her support for the stimulus package in 2009 infuriated conservatives already unhappy with her moderate stances on other fiscal and social issues. Some tea party activists have vowed to defeat her in the primary this year.

Maine elected a tea party-backed Gov. Paul LePage (R) last year in a three-way race, showing that there are enough supporters of the movement to influence an election there. But LePage had a close relationship with Snowe's late husband and has promised to back her, which might help shore up the senator with conservatives. She also will have an easier time if neither D'Amboise or Dodge emerges as tea partiers' preferred candidate -- if they split the anti-Snowe vote she will have a much easier time hanging on to the nomination.

D'Amboise's fundraising totals are not insignificant -- many of the tea party candidates who beat Republican incumbents or party favorites in 2010 had yet to even start campaigning at this point last election cycle, and depending on his total cash on hand he may be able to build enough grassroots support to give Snowe a tough primary race. But he will have to pick up the pace if he hopes to compete with her next year -- and make sure that he emerges as the consensus choice of conservatives.