Too many will welcome the news of Snowe's retirement. But if the GOP is one senator short of a majority in the next congress, I doubt they will be in such a celebratory mood.
In announcing her plans, Snowe, 65, emphasized that she is in good health and was prepared for the campaign ahead. But she said she was swayed by the increasing polarization in Washington.
"Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term," Snowe said in a statement. "So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail."
Snowe's retirement represents a major setback for the GOP's efforts to regain a majority in the Senate. As a moderate Republican, she may be the party's only hope to hold a seat in the strongly blue state.
Republicans did get some traction in the state in 2010, including electing Republican Paul LePage as governor.
But in a more neutral political environment, and in a federal race, Democrats will be heavy favorites to steal this seat from Republicans -- their best pickup opportunity in the country, for sure.
Snowe has been an unreliable Republican vote. But if she is replaced by a Democrat and they maintain control of the senate, what possible gain for the conservative cause has there been?
Snowe would have voted with the GOP 70% of the time. Her replacement may vote against the Democrats 10% of the time.
Is that really a good bargain?