April 14, 2006

Chafee Meets Silence in Scituate II

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee’s description of Scituate Republicans in the Washington Post's short feature on the Rhode Island Senate race that Marc linked to provides a subtle yet clear illustration of why the Senator is in danger of losing the Republican primary. Here is a quote from Senator Chafee, formatted using Justin’s technique of highlighting reckless absolutes…

Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response [in Scituate] was blank stares. "Nobody listened to my reasoning," Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. "They support the president on everything."
With all due respect, if Senator Chafee believes what he is saying here, then he hasn’t been paying close enough attention.

Republicans don't support the President on everything. Take two recent examples. Republicans didn’t fall into line and support the President on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Significant numbers of Republicans consider the President soft on immigration reform. And the President has listened to his party's voters on these issues -- he withdrew the Miers nomination, and has placed more emphasis on securing the borders as part of immigration reform.

Senator Chafee could also listen to Republican voters when they express their dissatisfaction with him, but has chosen a different response. In public statements like the quote from the Post, he writes off Republican voters as unreasonably closed-minded for disagreeing with him. Is it any surprise that the Senator unwilling to listen to the rank and file of his own party faces a serious challenge in a party primary?

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Good points, Andrew. Indeed, it seems that many moderates such as Sen. Chafee intend to imply--by their self-identifying use the adjective "moderate"-- that they are "reasonable" while everyone else is "partisan" (and thus not as noble).

Posted by: Marc at April 14, 2006 11:05 AM

Chafee is not only speechless, he is program-less, policy-less, and leadership-less. A nice man I am sure, but a highly ineffective Senator.

We need a US Senator who will fight for the people of Rhode Island (me and you) against forces from within (special inetersts, lobbyists, corporate welfare, etc.) and without (terrorism, global cartels, etc.).

Chafee isn't a maverick. He is quirk of political fate. His opponent (the honorable Mayor of Cranston) has the gut political instincts, smarts, energy, and personal integrity to do the best job for Rhode Island down in DC.

Cranston is just the tip of the iceberg. Laffey in Washington will be something to see. I can't wait.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at April 14, 2006 11:27 AM

Andrew, good job about the "nobody" and "everything" usage by Chafee. In politics, much like "yes" and "no," they are absolutist words that any politician should avoid using, because they can come back to haunt you. I've always liked "most of the time" and "often" myself.

I'm sure the Scituate GOP members "listened" to the Senator -- they may have even understood his "reasoning" about his occassionally quirky decisions (writing-in the Prez's dad comes to mind) -- the real problem for Chafee, is that they didn't agree with it.

As you pointed out, someone can't paint those who disagree with him as "close-minded" when he isn't able to exercise the same discipline himself.

Posted by: Will at April 14, 2006 12:39 PM

Sounds like typical East Side snobbery to me.

I read the WashPost article on their website and it is very telling as to why Chafee will lose the primary, he is trying to represent a Party that he does not belong in, he should have made the switch in 2000 but I guess his "stubborness" got the best of him.

He just doesn't get it and that is why he'll get smoked in the primary.

Posted by: Carl Elliott at April 14, 2006 2:21 PM

I'm not so confident about Steve Laffey's "gut political instincts." Making contributions to the losing side of the historic 1994 elections wasn't exactly politically astute. And now his excuse is that "my boss told me to"? Did he leave his famous courage and fighting spirit home that day?

How about raising taxes in Cranston and then trying to run as a conservative a few years later? What makes him think that aligning himself with a president whose approval ratings are dropping through the floor is a good idea? What instincts are telling him that an evangelical, pro-Bush Republican is going to get elected to the Senate from Rhode Island?

If you want good instincts, look at Chafee. If the Republican party had listened to him, we'd still have a budget surplus -- or at the very least be able to pay for Katrina. We wouldn't be in this mess in Iraq. Congress would have a record of accomplishment rather than divsion, and we'd be talking about burying the Democrats in 2006 instead of hoping to hang on to slim majority. The guy has been right every time. That's instinct. And it speaks volumes about his electability.

Posted by: Brian Taft at April 15, 2006 9:18 AM

Taft(probably an admirer of the loser Republican Governor in Ohio)

Laffey wasn't born rich like your guy so back in the early 1990s he had to listen to his boss. Who does Chafee listen to..nobody obviously to make the decisions and statements he does...or maybe its Peter Pan.

Laffey cut taxes this year after a tax freeze last year. Taxes only went up in Cranston because of near bankruptcy. Chafee raised taxes every year for the first 4 years as Mayor and gave away the store to the unions...you must be proud of that.

Yes, if only we had listened to Chafee the average guy's federal income taxes would be a few thousand dollars higher today because there would be no tax cuts (good idea emphasizing Chafee's opposition to tax cuts around tax time Chafee stooge), Saddam would be in power funnelling aid to Hamas, and Alito would not be on the bench.

Will you Chafee stooges, please let Chafee run as the "Independent Candidate" since he admires the Independent Man so much...everybody knows Chafee is not a Republican. You guys just embarass yourselves and the Senator everytime you come on here and talk about how Chafee is Republican, and Laffey is a liberal or has an evil character.

You are making the Senator and his campaign a joke.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at April 15, 2006 10:47 AM

Mr. Sanford,
You are ignorant. You mistake stridency for reason and you fail to address the most pressing issue - electability! Mr. Taft is right. Chafee votes the way the majority of Rhode Islanders want him to and that is why he will win both the primary and the general election. At the same time, he provides a crucial vote for the GOP on issues like the nomination of John Bolton and DR-CAFTA. That's the reason that he has the support of President Bush. If you really follow the President, shouldn't you support his favored candidate?

I would also add that this "boss told me to" explanation rings a little hollow. Did the Boss care about the Illinois congressional race? Why on earth did Laffey donate to Jesse Jackson Jr.?

Mr. Sanford, please explain to me how Laffey keeps the seat. He's fractured the party already, so he won't have their full support. Many Chafee supporters will throw their weight behind "anyone but Laffey," so where do these votes come from.

{Exaggerated statement of questionable accuracy deleted} Would you prefer to see how many times you would disagree with a Senator Whitehouse?

Posted by: Smith at April 15, 2006 12:41 PM

Yo Smitty,
The one who is responsible for "fracturing" the party is the one who doesn't act like he even belongs to the party. That would be your guy, Chafee.

I'm still betting that Chafee goes independent because even he must know that Laffey is going to crush him in the primary.

Posted by: J Kramer at April 15, 2006 3:15 PM

Dear Smith from Lost in Space

Electability has been discussed on this blog months ago before you were told by Chafee HQ to starting commenting here. I will just say for now if he can win in Cranston, he can win statewide...I notice that when all else fails bring up electability ...too bad for you only the average insider cares about that issue...please read the comment by the Republican voter in the ProJo at the J&W event this past week.

The only part of the RIGOP that is fractured over this race is the small insider and liberal portion of the RIGOP. After Laffey wins the primary(assuming there is one) the insiders will back him and the liberal Republicans like you can write in Chafee in Nov.

Chafee flipped flopped on Bolton and in the end opposed him. His vote was not needed on CAFTA...he is never there when needed. He threatened to leave the GOP when it was 50/50 in 2001. Please.

Like I said before go ask Laffey why he contributed to Jesse Jackson, and other liberals like Linc Chafee...he was probably only helping a friend out. Rather have a guy who gave $200 bucks to Jesse Jackson 10 years ago than have Chafee who votes like Jesse Jackson on the big issues for the last 6 years.

By the way, I am not ignorant- I am smart enough to know that a liberal (Chafee) can't win a Republican primary.

Speaking of ignorant, why do you guys waste your time here, your base is on rifuture.org, go plead with them to vote in the primary.

This past week you guys were funny, now you guys are getting boring.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at April 15, 2006 3:40 PM

Frequently using "always/never"-type words reflects mental instability. I have long questioned Chafee's flip-flopping actions as more in the realm of child-like attention grabbing than political calculation. He lacks charisma and courage, so gets the coveted headlines for his antics instead. "Darting through hallways..speaking in a diffident, even cryptic style". This is a description of a man with emotional issues who is sorely lacking confidence and is in way over his head.

The whole "maverick" shtick has worn thin with the people. A more apt word for an emotionally and mentally unbalanced man who acts as recklessly as he does is loony.

And how must his dwindling band of supporters feel when he characterizes his re-election bid as "impossible"? Only a true loony would make such a comment.

Posted by: bountyhunter at April 15, 2006 3:59 PM

Of course electability was discussed months ago and of course it will be discussed in the future. Getting elected is the whole point of a political campaign!

If you can't get elected, you can't advance your agenda, no matter what comprises that agenda.

Posted by: Anthony at April 15, 2006 4:43 PM

In the end, the only city/town GOP endorsements that carry any weight in their own city/town are:

East Greenwich
Little Compton
North Kingstown
West Greenwich

Think about Providence, Pawtucket, Johnston, Central Falls...do you think they're going to make any difference in a GOP primary?

Warwick is the crown jewel and Cranston is also important. For a Republican to win statewide, he needs to win both Warwick and Cranston.

Posted by: Anthony at April 15, 2006 4:56 PM


Assuming you are a supporter of the incumbent, bringing up Laffey's raising taxes in Cranston while the city teetered on insolvency is just not beneficial to your argument.

You can keep bringing it up but when anyone with an ounce of common sense reads about it they will look at it like most Cranston taxpayers and the bond rating agencies do.

Cranston was not just a mess it was about to miss payroll and default on its loans. Laffey and his team literally saved the city. If you want to do your guy a favor I wouldn’t mention Laffey’s record in Cranston.

Anyway, I can't wait to see Laffey in action down in DC.

And don't even try to tell me that it’s all different down there. It’s not. The place is full of big egos, big spenders, crooks, special interests and lobbyists all trying to get their greedy little hands on my tax dollars. Like I said its just like pre-Laffey Cranston.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at April 15, 2006 6:37 PM

Anthony, Once again please one comment per hour. Also, stick to character attacks on Laffey and away from in-depth political analysis like your insights into Republican city/town committee endorsements. Your list is not based on the number of Republican voters, number of elected Republicans from the town, or how much the town committee raised.

For the sake of brevity, I will make just two points.

Warwick is not the crown jewel of Republican town committee endorsements, it's more like costume jewelry...they raised $2000 and they haven't filed their campaign finance report due on 1/31/06. In contrast, Cranston has over $6,000 dollars.

Oh yeah, weren't you the one on this blog that ridiculed the Scituate Republican endorsement of Laffey as made by some farm animals. The Scituate Republican committee raised over $17,000- that is almost as much as the RIGOP.

I think the only farm animal involved in this election is the one that Chafee HQ has its head in the rear end of when it comes to appealing to Republicans.

Have a nice Easter.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at April 15, 2006 7:05 PM

All this time and you all still don't get it. Even worse, some of you believe issues matter as to who wins. Let me break it down again for you (please remember I pray for a Laffey victory by the hour)

It's not Chaffee v. Laffey, it's Chaffee v. Whitehouse. This race is all about turnout. If it rains, too low, or if Matt Brown fades away, too high, Laffey's dead. Turnout to either side of the spectrum is bad for Mayor Laffey while turnout in the middle is perfect.

More primaries on either side, good for Laffey. Therefore, you Laffey-ites should be beating the bushes looking for primary challengers for the already announced Chaffee-ites.

Please do me a favor: start with an East Providence Senate Candidate.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at April 15, 2006 10:42 PM

Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, where do I begin. What I think you fail to realize is that the candidate who can reach different demographic groups, speak clearly and with passion on the issues he cares about, and who can encourage people to follow his lead, is much more likely to get people to support him, and ultimately win. You sound like the type that encouraged Laffey to leave the party and run as an Independent in 2004, because of all the labor money that was going to be used to prop up a nominal Republican candidate. As a recall, Laffey squashed him like a bug. Come on, there isn't enough Starbucks in the world to keep people awake trying to see Chafee debate Whitehouse. They're basically the same person, with different party labels. At least with Laffey in the mix, there will be some excitement.

Mayor Laffey, besides his charisma, leadership skills, and strong work ethic, has something that Chafee now lacks. Laffey can reach beyond the traditional Republican voting base to both independents (the largest voting block), as well as to traditional blue-collar Democrats. He will be especially appealing to those Democrats who are pro-life, or believe in traditional values (i.e. those who aren't hard core leftists like Whitehouse and Brown), which is a good number of them. Chafee has totally alienated his Republican base, and even worse, has really not given his center-left base of support any real reason to choose him, a de facto Democrat, for a real one. They didn't have that option in 2000; now they do. As for independents, do you think they are going to back someone they believe is a Washington pawn? Or, someone who wants to shake things up?

PS We have an East Providence Republican Senate Candidate -- his name is Lloyd Monroe. In January, I expect that he will be Senator Monroe. We're working on it in the other district.

Posted by: Will at April 16, 2006 1:28 AM


I don't think you're going to help your case (i.e. trying to convince us to support Chafee), by telling the various city and town GOP committees across the state that they are worthless. If that's the case, they may as well dissolve themselves, and go join something else. It's that kind of, I guess I'll call it elitist attitude, for lack of a better word, that has caused so many problems for Chafee already.

One of the problems is that before this past year, many of the GOP town committees have never seen Chafee at their town committee meetings, since he apparently didn't "need" them. He needs them a lot more now than they need him. Those of us who support Laffey simply have higher expectations for the office than what we have now. We see it as a goal worth striving for. Striving towards a worthy goal is not without risk. The world will not end if Chafee isn't reelected. If that's the worst that can happen, I for one am willing to take it.

Posted by: Will at April 16, 2006 1:40 AM

Let's be a little more realistic and less idealistic about the "electability" issue. The thought that Chafee is more "electable", therefore people will vote for him, even though they like Laffey better (and that is what you are saying, or you would just be saying that more people actually like Chafee) is not the product of reasonable minds.

As an example, let's assume you are a Red Sox fan and the Red Sox, the American League wild card entry, are playing the Yankees in the ALCS. The winner will play the Mets, who've already won the NLCS and whom you absolutely despise. The prevalent thought amongst ALL of the pundits is that the Yankees, having finished with the best record in all of baseball, winning over 100 games, have a much better shot at beating the Mets. You aren't particularly fond of the Yankees (your Dad grew up in the Bronx and was a Yankee fan, so you can't hate them) but you do absolutely hate the Mets. It is game 4 and the Red Sox are down 3-0. Do you ever think of rooting for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox?

I don' think so!

Your wishful thinking about the "electability" issue is just that.

Happy Easter!

Posted by: Jim at April 16, 2006 12:09 PM

You seem to believe that I think my goal is to influence people to vote for Chafee. I'm not. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think most people on this blog have already made up their mind. I don't think James is going to convince Fred Sanford to vote for Chafee or Fred Sanford is going to convince James to vote for Laffey.

If the point of people posting on this blog is to sway a person's vote, I'd suggest the participants would be better off stuffing envelopes or making phone calls for their guy. That would have more of an effect. I post on this blog because I think it forces people to consider opinions other than their own and to challenge their own beliefs.

So why do I post comments? I'm a conservative who is a little bit of a junkie. I don't work or volunteer for either Laffey or Chafee and I call the shots the way I see them.

I stand by my comment: other than the town committees I mentioned above, most of the others don't carry any weight whatsoever. If someone in the Johnston GOP gets upset because I think they're irrelevant, than tough. It's the truth. You're certainly entitled to believe that the Johnston or Scituate GOP will be crucial to winning an election, but I don't share that belief.

I'll say it again. There are only a few city-wide Republican political machines that: Avedisian's crew in Warwick, Laffey's crew in Cranston and possibly Leo Fontaine's crew in Woonsocket that has managed to elect a GOP city council. Then there are some traditional Republican-leaning smaller towns such as East Greenwich (which has basically been taken over by Carcieri's campaign), Lincoln and Barrington. Elitist or not, they matter because their people get out and work. Please don't try to convince me ala Jim Bennett that all the other town committee endorsements are important.

I do have a question, though. What does it say that Bobby Oliveira, one of Matt Brown's most ardent supporters, comes on this blog to pump up Steve Laffey? Do you think he is doing it because he is getting ready to support Steve Laffey or for some other reason?

Happy Easter!

Posted by: Anthony at April 16, 2006 1:30 PM

Why we blog:

To articulate what we believe.

To promote our personal views.

To support our candidate.

To harass our opponents and turn their arguments to dust and hopefully make them face reality.

To clarify the differences between the candidates and sharpen our own grasp of the issues.

To have some fun in the virtual (anonymous) world.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at April 16, 2006 6:35 PM

Chafee vs. Laffey = liberal trust-fund baby vs. somewhat narcissistic but self-made quasi-conservative

Brown vs. Whitehouse = junior socialist trust-fund baby vs. senior socialist trust-fund baby

Chafee vs. Brown = moderate Democrat vs. mainstream Democrat

Chafee vs. Whitehouse = moderate Democrat vs. mainstream Democrat

Laffey vs. Brown = intelligent and street-smart egotist vs. “intellectual” featherweight

Laffey vs. Whitehouse = intelligent and street-smart egotist vs. nobless oblige looking for a reason for his existence

Posted by: Tom W at April 16, 2006 10:45 PM


Thank you for your comments. They've always been worth the effort to read. Insightful. I'm sure Bobby has his own motives, however misguided they may be. I'm sure he's sincere, but sincerely wrong, if he thinks a Laffey primary win will help his case. If he wants to believe that, let him.

I agree with some of your accessments regarding the various GOP committees. My point was just don't write them off. They mean something to someone out there, otherwise nobody would be seeking them. If anything, they tend to show momentum, as well as a base of support from grassroots activists within the party (i.e. the type of people who tend to vote in primaries).

PS Excellent analysis, Tom. If people get the choice between "intelligent and street-smart egotist vs. nobless oblige looking for a reason for his existence" then Laffey will be looking good. I'd rather have a self-assured guy who is at least qualified for the position he's seeking, versus someone who thinks they deserve it by birth.

Posted by: Will at April 17, 2006 2:32 AM

Apparently Charlestown disagrees with your choice Bill. The committee took one look at Laugh-at-me-Laffey and his Harvard business school honed street smarts and went with someone who can win this election.

Too think, Rob Manning, couldn't get his minions to march in lock step. Pretty shocking!

Posted by: smith at April 17, 2006 9:46 PM

Please tell Senator Chaffee that Scituate Republicans weren't looking at him with blank stares...they were just incredulous at the things he was saying... among them the comment that illegal immigrants should be allowed all the rights and priviledges of U.S. citizens because they braved and crossed "rattlesnake infested mesquite" to get here! On this topic and most others he misread his audience by a mile...to the point where he should have breathed a sigh of relief when the questions stopped!

As another example of his poor presentation is that fact that he had sent out notices to the towns asking for information on town needs and then attended a town committee meeting so ill prepared that he had no idea what the needs were or if he was successful in addressing them!

Unfortunately for Chaffee committee members did listen to his reasoning...

Scituate may not be a "player" when it comes to endorsements however it is interesting to note that a town committee which usually makes a decision not to endorse a candidate declined to endorse Chaffee.

Posted by: Scit Republican at April 18, 2006 2:24 PM

As the Chairman of the Westerly Republican Town Committee I am happy to report that last night we overwhelmingly endorsed Sen. Chafee for US Senate.

His committment to the people of this state is unprecidented. He delivers. I am happy as an elected official myself to run for re-election with the Senator and Gov. Carcieri at the top of the ticket in 2006!

Posted by: caswell cooke, Jr at April 21, 2006 8:04 PM

Dear Anthony and will,

My reasoning is simple: If given the choice, regardless of who the candidates are, I never want to face the incumbent in the final.

In this race, I also like facing the guy who mirrors another guy with a really high disapproval rating.

I like facing the guy least likely to get the little smiley face in the box on the report card that says "plays well with others."

Lastly, I like facing the guy who doesn't have a dad that some people will think they are voting for.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at April 21, 2006 8:35 PM