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Olympia Snowe: A red-meat Republican after all?

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Many people in Washington will miss Olympia Snowe, the Maine Republican and bipartisan bridge-builder who announced Tuesday evening that she has decided not to seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. But perhaps none more so than Charlie Palmer.

Though the confirmed centrist hardly fits the image of a "red-meat Republican," the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, appears to be one of her favorite venues. Records compiled by Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time show that the GOP lawmaker held 27 fundraisers there between May and December of last year. On three occasions, she headlined two events at the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in one day, most recently on December 14. It's one indication of how sudden and surprising Snowe's announcement was: She ended l2011 with more than $3 million in her campaign warchest.

Snowe, the first woman to serve in both chambers of her state legislature as well as both chambers of the U.S. Congress, cited Capitol Hill's  "atmosphere of polarization" to explain why she has decided not to run for re-election. A search in Sunlight's Capitol Words of the terms she uses most often on the floor of the Senate highlights her record as an advocate for her constituents and women's health. Among Snowe's favorites: Maine, fisheries, dairy, fisheries, ocean and breast. The senator was eight years old when she lost her mother to breast cancer, and has been a leading advocate for research on the disease. Her profile on Sunlight's Influence Explorer shows that the biggest earmark she requested -- $138 million -- was for breast cancer research. Next biggest: $80 million for prostate cancer research.

By comparison, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., -- first elected to the Senate in 1994 with Snowe and, like her, retiring this year -- favors words like "treaties," "nuclear," "Russians," and "weapons." His biggest earmark requests, according to Influence Explorer: $25 million for a civic education program and $20 million for a ballistic missile defense terminal.