January 24, 2006

Dole (Briefly) Opines on RI Senate '06

Marc Comtois

According to Hotline, Sen. Elizabeth Dole, chairwoman of the National Republican Senate Committee, offered this bit about the RI '06 Senate race today:

In RI, where the NRSC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars slamming incumbent Linc Chafee's primary opponent, Dole dismissed the idea that Chafee's challenger could win. Dole: "I will not even entertain the idea that Steve Laffey will win the primary."
Local Channel 6 charactized this as Sen. Dole offering "a positive view of Chafee's chances against his conservative challenger." There's your red meat for the day.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

If the NRSC's tactical assessment of the Democratic challengers they will be facing is as bad their assessment of the Rhode Island race, get ready to hear three ugly words...

"Majority Leader Reid".

Posted by: Andrew at January 24, 2006 7:59 PM

Marc, thanks for serving up some red meat, I was getting hungry.

Liz Dole is a nice lady, but she is doing a bad job this cycle, and I am speaking objectively.

The Demo. Senate Committee has more money on hand than the Repub. Senate Committee something like 22 million to 9 million. She has Santorum, Chafee, Burns, DeWine, and now Talent in trouble.

The Repub. Senate Comm. assessment of the RI Senate race has been so bad...the attacks ads which appear to have backfired, her spokesperson saying Chafee doesn't need Republicans to win.

Poor lady, she really is above her head.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 24, 2006 8:59 PM

This is too funny. The only reason Chafee's seat is in ANY danger is because of Steve Laffey, not because of the Democrats. If Reid becomes majority leader, it will have far more to do with Steve Laffey than Elizabeth Dole.

I've already heard that if Whitehouse opens up his lead over Bronw, the Democrats will encouage people to crossover and vote Laffey in the GOP primary.

You reap what you sow.

Posted by: Anthony at January 24, 2006 9:35 PM


The Republicans currently hold 55 seats in the Senate. If they lose their leadership, its because they blew at least 5 races.

I think the NRSC will have more impact on the races outside of Rhode Island than the Laffey campaign will.

If the NRSC can't properly assess the Laffey challenge to Senator Chafee, what makes you think they can assess and counter the campaign of Sheldon Whitehouse/Matt Brown? And are they as out-of-touch in the other states with Republican incumbents as they are in RI?

Posted by: Andrew at January 24, 2006 10:07 PM

I agree completely with Andrew.

Rhode Island GOPers must not lose sight of the end-goal here: retaining our Senate seat. Whoever comes through the primary is going to come out battered, and should be prepared to go up against a formidable Democratic challenge.

Posted by: john b at January 24, 2006 11:11 PM

I've met Elizabeth Dole on several occassions. I've even had my picture taken with her (so hopefully she doesn't ever get caught up in any Abrahamoff-esque scandals). I think she's a good senator, but her handling of the NRSC certainly is something to be desired. She needs to reassess her priorities, otherwise she is going to be very disappointed in the Fall.

The first thing I thought about upon reading this is what Mayor Laffey's reaction might be. I suspect it would be something like "Please continue to underestimate me." It will make his victory all the more satisfying later on.

With all due respect to Anthony, your comment "The only reason Chafee's seat is in ANY danger is because of Steve Laffey" is seriously off base. The only reason why this seat is endangered is because of Senator Chafee, and his nearly complete abandonment of the Republican Party and its principles. What Mayor Laffey provides is a positive alternative to those of us who would prefer to have someone representing us that knows what he believes in, and who isn't afraid or unable to articulate it. Chafee's needless foot-dragging on the Alito nomination is only one more needle on the camel's back.

Posted by: Will at January 25, 2006 1:04 AM


When the highest priority of the NRSC is to hold on to REP seats at all costs, and true adherence to the solid republican principles of small government, low taxes, strong military, etc. become second tier or even non existent in the case of Chafee, you have a situation where the absurd replaces the rational.

He is not a republican who calls him or herself a republican, he is a republican who acts and votes like a republican. Ideology and principle rule over rhetoric and campaign BS.

Make an honest assessment of the man and you have to admit he is just not a republican. If you are for him then you are not one either.

Its okay to be an independent or even a DEM. America allows for this awesome freedom. But deceiving people about what you are and where you stand is just wrong.

The common people know this, understand it and will make their voice heard in September.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at January 25, 2006 9:01 AM

Will, let's differentiate. You mention Chafee's abadonment of Republican Party and its principles. What you have outlined are the reasons why Chafee might lose the Republican PRIMARY. They are not the reasons that the GOP might lose the Senate seat to a Democrat.

Posted by: Anthony at January 25, 2006 9:22 AM

If Repulican voters in Rhode Island honestly believe that Mayor Laffey is a better option, why shouldn't they vote for him?? Anthony, inherent in your comment is the assumption that the incumbent Chafee is automatically the best option despite his adherence to liberal positions. This has been clearly documented on this blog and elsewhere. Why do you feel this way? Are you a closet liberal?

Posted by: Leon Berg at January 25, 2006 10:43 AM

More undocumented rumors from inside the Chafee camp: Democrats will encourage people to vote for Laffey in the primary. OK, lets assume that is true for a moment, that is great news for Laffey. Since the only hope Chafee has of winning the primary is some sort of tidal wave of liberals raiding the primary, the fact that the liberal independents who do vote in the primary will vote for Laffey, means that Chafee should just give up now and go independant...maybe he should do that right after he votes against Alito.

Really, the point the Chafee camp always repeats is electability. Bottom line is Laffey has been underestimated before in 2002 against Garabedian and in 2004 against the unions. The fact that Brown and Lord Sheldon are now copying Laffey's message on oil, special interests and earmarks(pork), means that Laffey's message must really resonate with general election voters. I bet a large majority of Republicans and Republican leaning independents would take a chance with Laffey then play it safe with Chafee knowing they will just get a guy who votes with the Democrats on the big issues, and may bolt the party at some point has nearly done in the past.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 25, 2006 10:08 PM

Voters are entitled to vote for whoever they want. That is the nature of democracy. However, voters must always be aware of the effects of their vote.

When Ralph Nader was running for office, many Republicans helped him get on the ballot in many states because they knew his presence on the ballot would hurt Kerry and help Bush. I'm sure most Nader voters were left-wingers who were more in tune with John Kerry than George Bush, but the net effect of their vote was to help the President get re-elected.

The same is true with Laffey. Every poll published thus far shows Laffey losing by double digit margins in a general election. It would appear that the net effect of a vote for Steve Laffey is to help elect a Democrat and give the Democrats control of the US Senate.

So Leon, you may question whether I'm a liberal, only the facts matter to me.

Fred, you are right on two points. I think some people underestimated Laffey in the past. I was never one of them. I was glad to see Laffey run for mayor of Cranston and I think he did a good job showing that a city doesn't have to be beholden to unions. It was a good lesson for cities around the state. But I don't think I am now and I don't think many people in the state are underestimating him now.

In fact, I think if the national GOP thought Laffey had a prayer of winning a general election, they would have stepped away from Chafee in heartbeat. Instead they became more heavily involved.

The NRSC and Chamber of Commerce haven't misjudged the Chafee/Laffey race. Every objective measure shows Laffey getting his head handed to him in a prospective general election ala Brett Shundler.

And Fred, you know that Chafee would be remiss if he didn't remind conservatives of this fact when it is borne out by independent polling.

For all the talk about how Chafee is a RINO, not a real Republican and so on, the reality is that Roberts is now on the bench. Alito will be on the bench with or without Chafee's support. The Bush tax cuts were still enacted despite Chafee's opposition. If control of the Senate changes, none of these things will happen in the future and many of the advances made by the conservative movement will be reversed.

Now your guy may say that people shouldn't listen to the polls or vote for him despite the polls. That's OK and it's their perogative. So long as voters understand the potential net effect of their vote and can cast an intelligent ballot, I have no problem if people vote for Laffey.

I'll disagree with them, but I'll respect their right to vote for their candidate of choice, just as I respected the right of Nader voters to vote for their candidate of choice even though it was counter-productive to their end goals.

It's a democracy and while you don't always get what's best, you get what you deserve.

Posted by: Anthony at January 25, 2006 10:51 PM

As Ben Franklin once said, "there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics." Don't put so much stock in polls, especially this early in the year. I understand that the polling that you are privy to, mainly is that done through the NRSC and other Chafee backers. They get the result they pay for, because of the way they ask the questions. And yes, they have been nice enough to poll me on more than one occassion already. How nice.

Laffey is not a Ralph Nader. He is not looking to take 2-3% of the vote, swing the margin the other way, declare "victory" and go home. That's not his style. Laffey is running, not only to rid this party of Chafee's influence, but to actually win the seat itself. Laffey wouldn't be in this race if he didn't think he could/would win it. You severely underestimate the appeal that someone like Mayor Laffey has to those, regardless of party affiliation, who are sick and tired of the way that politics "works." He can do that, because his whole life is not politics. He had a real career, and now he wants to serve the public.

Not only is Laffey running because he thinks he can win, I believe he is actually more likely to win as well. Who would do better in a head to head matchup against Lord Sheldon in a debate or in a public forum? Laffey's command of the issues and his ability to articulate his views put him leagues above Chafee. People want a leader who knows what he believes in and isn't afraid to take on those who keep us from realizing our fullest potential as a state and nation. Chafee is a nice guy, but he's not a leader. We need a real leader.

Posted by: Will at January 26, 2006 12:38 AM

Seems to me that the belittling of the Laffey campaign butresses the notion that Laffey isn't a GOP pawn.

There's no question that Laffey's philosophy is more in step with the GOP than Chafee's. But despite Chafee's hemming and hawwing, he generally supports the President when it counts. One can see a day or days where Laffey would not because of his personal convictions and distate for BS government. Thus, Laffey's the wildcard and despite the GOP's national success, they've yet to devise a Northeast strategy worth mentioning.

And until they have any inroads in this part of the country, they're likely to continue supporting 'maverick' politicians that have been able to win in entrenched democratic strongholds.

Posted by: don roach at January 26, 2006 3:20 AM

The only polling that I'm privvy to are the polls that have been publicly released, such as the Providence Journal polls.

I have no doubt that Laffey thinks he can win. I have no doubt that Ross Perot thought he could win when he caused the '92 election to go to Clinton. It's not about what the candidate thinks, it's about who the voters will support.

I agree that Laffey would be a better debater against the Democratic candidate than Chafee. If statewide elections were determined based on a points style debate competition, Laffey would win. But that's not the way statewide elections work. Very few people will ever watch a debate. Heck, I'm a minor political junkie and I'll only watch if there isn't something better on TV.

Most voters will judge an incumbent by what they have done while they're in office. Did uncle Vinny get help with his Social Security problem? Did the incumbent show up to nephew Bobby's Eagle Scout ceremony? Do I like the incumbent? Does he care about people like me? Does he share my beliefs?

For the most part, this information is obtained through personal experience in dealing with the incumbent, hearing stories from friends and relatives, paid TV advertising and just every day media reporting.

I don't think the average voter really gets swayed by a debate.

Posted by: Anthony at January 26, 2006 3:32 AM

The real question is: Who's the real maverick?

Laffey is an outsider, looking to change the system, not be assimilated by it. Chafee was more or less born as an insider. He hasn't done much to change that image by his actions in office. There's a big difference between being a "maverick" and just being unpredictable. Maverick's do what they do out of a commitment to principle, not just because they want to march to a different drummer.

That being said, Laffey is a threat to those in the RNC who place politics before principle.

PS As for Anthony, I admit that my take regarding polling is largely based on material that you won't find in the Providence Journal.

As for debates, I would hope that wouldn't be the sum of voters impressions about any candidate, because as a matter of course, they do tend to be dull and largely predictable. Laffey's advantage isn't only stylistic; he has actual principles which he isn't afraid to espouse.

A Ralph Nader or a Ross Perot runs not to win, but to rock the boat for its own sake, without any real expectation of winning. Laffey is running to win.

Posted by: Will at January 26, 2006 3:39 AM

Two points-
1. I think Perot ran to win, not to rock the boat. He had a big ego and thought voters would "draft" him. Remember, how he said he was going to run, then said he wasn't. He finally confirmed he was running after organizing a group of supporters to "draft" him. So Perot thought he could win, he and his supporters just weren't being realistic. Perot now acknowleges that he was somewhat naive.

2. I don't think the RNC is putting politics before principles. I think the Republican Party stands for certain priciples and the RNC uses politics to best promote those principles. Sometimes that means supporting politicians like Chafee, Snowe, Specter and Collins who don't tow the party line, but give the GOP a majority. Four seats is not insignificant.

I think the RNC and NRSC would take a completely different approach if it had a safe majority in the Senate, the polling trends in the '06 elections favored Republicans and Steve Laffey had shown the ability to attract voters from across party lines and win a statewide general election in RI.

Make no mistake, if Don Carcieri decided to primary Linc Chafee, you'd see the RNC and NRSC take a completely different approach.

The last thing either of those organizations want to do is to spend their money to keep the RI Senate seat in Republican hands when the money could be used in PA or other states.

As for the term "maverick". Chafee is a maverick. Laffey is a maverick. Neither of these guys are your typical Rhode Island insiders. Chafee was born into a political insider family, but was never really much of an insider. Laffey is not an insider.

Laffey will try to pin the insider label on Chafee because Chafee is an incumbent. That's the smart thing for any challenger in Rhode Island to do.
But after six years of hearing how Chafee is a maverick from the media, most Rhode Islanders aren't going to believe it.

In most races, the incumbent holds most of the cards. Chafee can show up to an event and bring a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a sitting US Senator, Chafee can use his position to actually help people.

Laffey doesn't have the ability to bring a check to an event, so he needs to be vocal about attacking pork. Laffey must make it seem that federally-funded projects are bad, even though they may at times help Rhode Island. Laffey can't really help constituents with federal issues, but can tell them what he would do and how he'd do it better than Chafee.

Laffey's strengths will have to be in fundraising and hustle. He'll have to work his CFG contacts, even though it will cost him votes in the general election. He has a time advantage over Chafee that he must use. Chafee will have to spend a great deal of time in DC or Laffey can criticize Chafee on how often he voted. This gives Laffey the ability to work the state consistently while Chafee is tied down in DC.

I have no doubt that Laffey will out-hustle Chafee. I do have doubts as to whether Laffey can beat Chafee consistently in fundraising. Chafee slammed Bob Weygand in 2000 in this area. I also doubt that Laffey can pull off a general election win in RI. I still have questions about Laffey's past professional background that remain unanswered, but like everything in politics, I know Laffey will evenutally have to answer.

Until Laffey provides honest answers, we won't know whether there will be no reaction or a heated reaction. Remember, Chafee admitted to doing cocaine in college and his poll numbers in RI went HIGHER (pun intended). Conversely, someone got hold of Jack Ryan's divorce papers in IL and the public release of the details ended his political career.

So what do we have? Here's my breakdown:

1. Best chance at keeping the Senate majority.
2. Has honesty and integrity.
3. Effective in getting things done for RI.
4. Has shown the ability to get statewide Democrats and Independents to vote for him.

1. Votes against the President too frequently.
2. Is a poor public speaker.
3. Often seems like he has attention deficit disorder.
4. Has never really introduced any legislation or policies that have vision.

1. Possesses tremedous charisma and public speaking ability. Can whip up a crowd on demand.
2. Intelligent and articulate.
3. Hard-working. Up by the bootstraps story.
4. Has shown the ability to introduce innovative policies, "outside the box" thinking on important issues such as energy and taxes.

1. Has not given any indication that he is electable in blue state RI and may cause GOP to lose the Senate majority.
2. Still has not provided answers to professional and personal questions that have been raised and is not fully vetted.
3. Has a polarizing style. Democrats, independents and even some Republicans seem put off by the manner in which he puts forth his policies.
4. Seems to dodge responsibilty. No matter what happens it always seems to be someone else's fault.

So there you have it, my armchair analysis of why I'm voting for Chafee. Now I udnerstand that someone could look at this very same list and decide to vote for Laffey. I don't have a problem with that.

I do have a problem with people who think that a "real" conservative could never vote for Chafee. I also have problems with people who think only "right wingers" could vote for Laffey. Neither candidate is perfect. Both have strengths and yes, much to the chagrin of many the bloggers here, both have weaknesses.

It comes down to what each voter feels is most important.

Posted by: Anthony at January 26, 2006 11:57 AM

Antony, that was quite a Senatorial filibuster there.

First, as said in ProJo article the first thing in the Repub Senate charter is incumbant protection, it wouldn't matter who was running against Chafee the DC Repub insiders will follow the charter. (Please tell your higher ups in the chafee camp, that Liz Dole needs to come up with a better reason to support Chafee than incumbant protection, it sounds so weak).

Second, all your points go back to electability, which has been your constant theme on this blog. As I have said before, the West polling is terrible, it had York beating Carcieri by 7 when Carcieri won by 10. This is also very early in the election season, if you look at polling on Chafee in 1999, Chafee was losing to Weygand. Lastly, Chafee is a very weak general election candidiate, he led Whitehsoue by 5 in the West poll, and his numbers are at or below 40, which is terrible for an incumbant.

Bottom line for the overwhelming majority of Republicans and Republican leaning independents is that Chafee does not vote with them on the big issues, and they will give Laffey a chance because there is a reasonable possibility he can win in November.

Keep on plugging for your guy, but please no filibusters on the blog.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 26, 2006 7:02 PM


A very interesting, and reasonably objective analysis. If brevity is the soul of wit ... well, I won't go there.

I hate to admit that I once met Ross Perot, when he ran for President in 1992. While I was too young to vote in that election, I very nearly thought of supporting him as a volunteer, mainly out of disgust with GHWB and his flip-flopping on the "no new taxes" pledge. Fortunately, I came to see Perot as, well, something of a well-intentioned flake. Without meaning to be mean, because I honestly like him, I tend to see Chafee in that light, too.

As for Laffey, I think you listed the PROs pretty well, but the CONs are mainly subjective issues of interpretation. Perhaps some of that will be taken care of with time. Unfortunately, the CONs you listed regarding Chafee are not things that are ever likely to change.

One "PRO", which is an extremely important one in my eyes, is that Laffey has the ability to reach out to what I'd call "non-traditional" Republican-leaning, thoughtful independent, and disaffected democratic voters -- in addition to the Republican base, in much the way that Reagan was able to carry RI in 1984. While this will have a minimal effect in the GOP primary itself, as most of the people voting will be Republicans, it will have a major effect in the general election. Your (meaning Chafee supporters') problem is that even if Chafee somehow makes it though a GOP primary, his ability to appeal to people from all different groups is not very strong. If anything, he is even more "polarizing" than Laffey, especially to strong Republicans and strong Democrats.

Posted by: Will at January 27, 2006 2:45 AM

Will, I see Chafee bringing in more RI independents and Democrats than Laffey. He has already shown the ability to do so.

Many Reagan Democrats were the policemen, firefighters and factory workers who, while registered Democrats, held conservative views.

Rightly or wrongly, Laffey doesn't play well with these groups. In fact, most RI police and firefighters despise Laffey for the way he treated their bretheren in Cranston.

Laffey will do a good job in getting some conservatives who heretofore had not been actively involved in politics mobilized. But I don't think it's enough to win a general election.

Posted by: Anthony at January 27, 2006 9:06 AM