April 14, 2006

Chafee Meets Silence in Scituate

Marc Comtois

In today's Washington Post:

Lincoln Chafee was cleaning a horse stall on his well-manicured farm one recent early morning, describing his latest encounter with hostile home-state Republicans.

The GOP senator had appeared the previous night before the Scituate Republican Town Committee to seek the endorsement of the small but influential group. In his halting, soft-spoken way, Chafee defended his opposition to the war in Iraq, domestic wiretapping and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. as the principled positions of an old-school conservative.

Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response was blank stares. "Nobody listened to my reasoning," Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. "They support the president on everything."

Few paths to victory are more convoluted than the one Chafee must travel to win election to a second term this year in this strongly Democratic state. Chafee will face Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, a conservative, in the Sept. 12 GOP primary, and he must convince voters that he is "Republican enough," despite his numerous defections from the party and President Bush. If he survives the primary, Chafee then must hope that he can hold the Republican vote while wooing moderate Democrats and independents to stave off what is sure to be a strong Democratic challenge.

"I'm running for opposite constituencies," Chafee said. "It's impossible."

. . . [Cranston Mayor Steve] Laffey, 43, energetic and ebullient, is Chafee's political opposite. Although he became wealthy working for a Memphis-based financial services company, he grew up as a lower-middle-class Cranston kid...Although Laffey raised taxes as Cranston mayor -- a heretical act for a conservative Republican in Washington -- he is admired for having turned around a troubled city, including by bucking powerful unions and even a platoon of highly paid school crossing guards. State and national Republican leaders strongly urged him to run for lieutenant governor, but Laffey believes his financial management skills can be put to better use in Washington. "I'm not into that," Laffey said of the intraparty pressure. "I'm an outsider. I'm running against what's going on down there."

At least some Rhode Island Republicans agree: the Scituate Republican Town Committee. The group decided to back Laffey the morning after Chafee's appearance.

Imagine that, Republicans supporting a Republican President on such issues as War and Supreme Court nominations. Whoda thunk?

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I will add this every time I see it questioned. Bush supports Chafee. President Bush would like to see Steve Laffey lose. Deal with it!

Posted by: Smith at April 15, 2006 12:42 PM

So, you're expecting a Bush pit-stop in Rhode Island to support Chafee before the primary? Maybe a video tape of support for him, or even a personally authored letter perhaps? A visit by the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Education doesn't qualify as a Bush endorsement.

Perhaps in the confines of Chafee HQ, someone actually thinks President Bush cares who the Senator from Rhode Island is? Or even knows who he is? He has much bigger things on his plate, than worrying about the political career of a one-term senator from this little state.

Mr. Smith, go back to Washington.

Posted by: Will at April 16, 2006 1:50 AM

I think that the President cares very much about who the next Senator from Rhode Island is. I think, in fact, that the Republican party has greatly enjoyed having a Republican Senator from one of the bluest states in the country for the past 30 years. In fact, I think people in Washington from Elizabeth Dole on up to Dubya are pretty irked that a looney from Cranston would jeopardize that.
Chafee is the only Republican who can keep this seat. Laffey's negatives are through the roof. As the state gets to know him, they like him less and less. You and Mr. Frias/Sanford are anomalies in Rhode Island. Most of us like our independent thinking, Republican mavericks.
Personally, I like Chafee because he is honest and principled. Did you read Mulligan's column today. Once again, all we get from Laffey is evasion. Chafee has a clearcut position on Israel and Laffey is just twisting in the wind.

Posted by: James at April 16, 2006 11:25 AM

Nationally, Republican's would like to see a Democrat Senator in Rhode Island with enough integrity and principle not to call himself a Republican.

Posted by: Laxpat at April 16, 2006 6:06 PM

No, national Republicans will hold their noses to keep the RI Senate seat in Republican hands. Principle has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: bren at April 16, 2006 9:57 PM

"Chafee has a clearcut position on Israel" He wants us to support with taxpayer money a government in the West Bank that wants Israel destroyed. You're joking here, right?

This is the same guy who voted against the Syria Accountability Act, wants us to support the Hamas Gov't in the Palestinian Territories with US taxpayer dollars, thinks we are being too tough on Iran, and was the only Senate Republican who didn't want Saddam Hussein overthrown in Iraq?

I've never detected a shade of ambivalence in Laffey's answers on the subject. Laffey is strongly pro-Israel and has said so repeatedly in public and in private.

Posted by: Will at April 17, 2006 2:41 AM