TEA PARTIERS EYE ‘SNOWE REMOVAL’…. The Tea Party Express, a prominent group within the Republicans’ base, formally announced yesterday that it’s going after Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine in a GOP primary. It’s part of an effort local far-right activists are calling “Snowe removal,” and it’s considered a top Tea Party priority for the next cycle.

Who’ll run against her? Meet Andrew Ian Dodge.

The state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots in Maine, Dodge told TPM he will announce his entrance into the race Friday at a press conference at CPAC. He’ll be the second to jump into the GOP primary against Snowe after businessman Scott D’amboise declared his run last year.

You may not recognize Dodge’s name, but if you’ve read news coverage of the Tea Party over the last year you’ve almost certainly seen him quoted. Dodge’s friendly relationship with reporters and off-beat analysis has made him one of the most frequently cited activists in the movement by mainstream reporters. […]

Lacking electoral experience, Dodge is a long shot by any standard, and doesn’t exactly conform to the usual image of a Senate candidate: He’s typically clad in black. He sports a goatee and long greying hair reminiscent of a heavy metal roadie. He works as a freelance columnist penning political analysis and hard rock music reviews and has written a trilogy of “cyber-punky, kind of William Gibson-esque” novels which he has published himself.

Clearly, he doesn’t sound like the kind of candidate who’ll take down a popular incumbent in a primary, but recent history suggests anything’s possible. Mike Castle was a shoo-in in Delaware, right up until he lost to Christine O’Donnell. Lisa Murkowski had a lock on the GOP nomination, until Joe Miller edged past her. Don’t be too surprised if Dodge is competitive.

Another angle to keep an eye on is the other side of the aisle. Leading Democrats are generally inclined to steer clear of the race, because Snowe is a giant of Maine politics with a fair amount of crossover appeal to Dems and independents. But if would-be Democratic candidates start to think Snowe is vulnerable, they’ll take the race far more seriously, discovering that the nomination might be worth having.

Also note, if Snowe feels forced to move to the far-right to win the primary, this too could generate Democratic campaigns.

I still think Snowe’s best bet would be to leave the GOP altogether, but in the meantime, it’s a primary fight worth watching.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.