June 17, 2006

Democrats Crossing the Line

Marc Comtois

According to this morning's ProJo:

More than 14,500 Rhode Island Democrats have switched their voter affiliations within the past six months to participate in the Sept. 12 Republican primary, a figure that experts say will probably help incumbent Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee in his campaign against Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey.

State elections records compiled by the secretary of state's office show that 13,596 Democrats switched their affiliations to independent -- or unaffiliated in the state's political argot -- which would make them eligible to vote in the primary. An additional 987 Democrats switched to Republican, thus making them eligible to vote in the GOP primary.

That's quite a number, especially given the historic turnout of a GOP primary. I wonder if all of the switching has to do with the Laffey / Chafee race, though. Governor Carcieri does face a primary challenger this fall, too, and many believe that traditionally Democrat labor unions are quietly behind Michaud's candidacy. Let's not forget that. I'm also not so sure that all of this party switching augers as well for Sen. Chafee as most of the experts believe.

I would bet that many Democrats simply don't think that Laffey can win state wide. So, they believe that by disaffiliating and voting in the GOP primary they can kill the two biggest GOP birds with one stone. Should Laffey and Michaud win, Democrats no doubt believe that both Whitehouse and Fogerty would roll to general election wins. Of course, any such forecasting doesn't take into account that the vast majority of independent RI voters may not appreciate the genius of such political calculations.

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This article today epitomizes the type of hyped up reporting that goes in during a campaign. Even before these numbers came out I wrote on rifuture.org:

"many people are failing to recognize is that many of party changes which occurred in 2006 was not due to the Senate race but because Matt Brown sent letters out voters asking them to check their information and make any changes. Undoubtedly, a large number of voters responded to these letters, and may have changed their party affiliation because they felt it was in error. These letters began being sent out in the last half of March (according to ProJo).

There will be undoubtedly be a large number of Democrats who became Unaffiliated but you will also find a good number of Republicans who became Unaffilated as well. Since there are about 250,000 Democrats to 70,000 Republicans in RI the number of Demos disaffiliating will be higher than Repubs disaffiliating, but on a percentage basis I would suspect they would be very similar (ie the number of disaffiliations from Demo to U divided by the number of Demos compared to the number of disaffiliations from Repub to U divided by the number of Repubs). If it is not similar then one could claim that disaffiliations were occuring to vote in the Republican primary. A very similar percentage of disaffiliations from both parties would show that the party changes had more to do with people not wanting to be affiliated with a particular party than wanting to vote in any particular primary. In other words, the overwhelming majority of all these party changes in 2006 I think had alot to do with Matt Brown’s letter and a lot less to do with Senator Chafee.

I would agree that some disaffiliated to vote for Chafee, maybe in Warwick. But I would also suspect that some Democrats diaffiliated to vote for Laffey because he is perceived as the weaker candidate, and some to vote for him because he is pro-life."

The numbers are out, and I was correct. The number of Demos in January in RI were approximately 250,000 while the number of Republicans were 70,000. Let's see 13,596 Demos disaffiliated from Demo to Unaffiliated or about 5.4 percent of Democrats . Also, 3768 Republicans went from Repub to Unaffiliated or about 5.4 percent of Republicans. The only reason that there are more disaffiliations from Demo to U than to Republican to U is that there are so many more Democrats than Republicans in RI. The fact that percentage of disaffiliations from both parties to Unaffiliated were IDENTICAL to the decimal point, tells me either there is a great COSMIC coincidence going on, or rather the Chafee cmapign was not at all successful in recruiting Democrats to change parties just to vote in the Republican primary. If Chafee's efforts had been successful than there would clearly be a HIGHER percentage of Democrats disaffiliating than Republicans disaffiliating from their parties.

However, you see this won't be pointed out because that would make these disaffiliations a non-story. Making it a story allows Chafee to brag about his broad based support just like he does with his "sell out" McCain picnics. Making it a story allows Laffey to incite Republicans and conservative independents with talk of rigging elections just like he did in 2004. The so-called "political experts" West and Duffy would have to do work and look beyond the numbers to see something maybe they didn't want to see. The ProJo of course would not have a front page story if this was just people changing parties because of a Matt Brown letter. So, it serves everybody's interest to report and analysize the story of disaffiliations this way.

Now, if the Chafee people are stupid enough to think that they will get 14,500 ex-Democrats to come out on primary day (assuming they stay in the primary), than they are the biggest fools of them all.

I maybe a junkman who can't spell, but I know numbers.

Wow, is politics funny, and so silly.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 17, 2006 11:02 AM

Anyone who thinks that 14,500 voters disaffiliated because of Michaud is smoking something. Certainly there are a handful of insider Democrats who may vote for Laffey, but they are few and far between.

It is difficult to get people to the polls much less get them to take the time to disaffiliate and then get them to vote.

This number should give pollsters the ability to generate more specific results.

Laffey has to be concerned. As I predicted early in the race, Laffey's negatives are now over 50% and it looks like we're poised for record turn out.

Posted by: Anthony at June 17, 2006 11:05 AM

Fred, your analysis contains gaping holes.

You assume that because the percentage of Democrats and Republicans re-registering as unaffiliated is the same, that the cause for re-affiliating must be the same. It's a simple cause/effect issue. Just because you have the same outcome in two instances does not mean the cause for that outcome is the same.

Polling has shown that many Republicans have been unhappy with the direction of the party and the the decrease in numbers follows a national trend. Conversely, Democrats are seen as having momentum this year and the party has seen growth in numbers. It follows that some Republicans would re-affiliate, but there is obviously an external driver for the re-affiliating Democrats.

Mathematically, this race is becoming increasingly difficult for Steve Laffey. So when do we find out Laffey is running as an independent?

Posted by: Anthony at June 17, 2006 11:19 AM

Anthony, why did you become so obtuse overnight?

First, regarding who may run as independent, please check the Laffey web site, which has a press release where Lang was asked a direct question by Violet as to whether Chafee would stay in the Republican primary, and Lang's vague answer about how Chafee is backed by Republicans, etc. If Chafee was only going to run in the Republican primary then he would answer unequivocally that Chafee is running in the Repub primary, and that questions about him becoming an independent is "ludicrous" as you have stated in the past. Chafee camp did not.

It kind of goes along with all the other bad news and bad vibes Chafee is getting and giving off. He runs attack attacks ads on Laffey in May (strange to do so this early unless of course June is the key month for Chafee to decide something) but Laffey's numbers don't change at all among conservatives. Remember Anthony, about 25% of RI voters consider themselves conservative, the overwhelming number of them are Republicans and independents. They will be the high percentage in a Repub primary. Also remember (as stated before to you), the least likely group to vote in a primary are moderate indepedents, and Chafee's negatives among them will climb as he keeps going negative.

Regarding my analysis, it is sound but yours show desperation. Let's see by your COSMIC coincidence theory, the same percentage of Republicans became independnets as Democrats became independents for two very different reasons. One because Repubs are unhappy with the national party on pork, and immigration while Democrats did so to save RINO Chafee. Spare me. The overall trend affecting both groups is the same-Rhode Islanders dislike both parties and do not want to be associated with either one. The huge percentage of independent voters in this state is consistent with my analysis. Do you have evidence of 5.4 percent of Republicans nationwide becoming independents in 2006...I doubt it.

I also noticed you did not discount the fact that these party changes were caused not by registration cards being dropped off at local bds by the Chafee camp but by the Sec of State letter asking voters to make corrections, and thus, having likely nothing to do with Chafee at all.

Keep hope alive, Chafee guys. I guess you guys really are fooling yourselves in believing that 14,500 ex-Democrats are coming to your rescue on primary day.

Better run off and use your "comp" ticket to get into the "sold out" McCain picnic.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 17, 2006 12:29 PM

Frankly, all this disaffiliation stuff is a bunch of noise. What it really means, in my opinion, is that there are so many interesting races and potential permutations within these races that a sensible voter wants to keep his primary voting options open. At the time of a lot of these disaffiliations, remember, it was unclear whether Brown would stay in the race. It remains unclear whether Chafee will pull a Jeffords. The Governor's race has heated up beyond anyone's wildest imagination. Sheeler has come out of nowhere to raise a respectable amount of money.

Let's look at my case. I am clearly a Laffey supporter. But what if Chafee goes independent and I remain a registered Republican. All of a sudden my primary vote means nothing in the one race I truly care about. But if I were an independent, I could then vote in the democratic primary for Sheeler on a spoiler basis.

Given RIs strange primary rules, I would think that logic would dictate that every single voter register as an independent. It gives one flexibility and costs one nothing.

Posted by: bountyhunter at June 17, 2006 3:00 PM

The notion that this "huge" disaffiliation issue is good for Chafee, "according to the experts" is laughable. The belief amongst Democrats that Laffey is easier to beat than Chafee would suggest that the Democrats are disaffiliating to vote for Laffey, not Chafee. Scott McKay wouldn't know an expert if one sat on him. This reporting is amateurish at best.

Posted by: Jim at June 17, 2006 6:57 PM

The Projo costs 50˘. Opinions are still cheap.

Analysis of this disaffiliation thing coupled with the McCain visit today is giving me a serious case of inconsequentialitis.

The disaffiliates are counted but not polled. Maybe someone will poll them and find out why they did what they did and whom they intend to vote for.

I know... Darrell West should do the poll. He could poll the 14 thousand disaffiliates, publish the results, and then everyone will know the exact opposite of what will actually happen in September (just like all his other polls).

If Scott McKay were really on the ball he would have at least done his homework before writing the report. His opening statement is an unsupportable generalization, which at its very essence is pure assumption and mere speculation. Maybe Scott doesn't realize that the disaffiliates can still vote in the Democratic Primary. (So much for unbiased reporting)

Remember what happened in Cranston. The people know what is going on. We won't get fooled again.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at June 17, 2006 10:23 PM

I'll keep this unusually pithy ... 14,500 disaffiliations is (1) not as big as one might have expected (2) not outside of the historical norms (3) no guarantee whatsoever that they all (or even a majority) plan to vote for Chafee (4) As usual West took the lazy route, making general assumptions, without bothering to actually get "facts" to back them up with. He's a Sheldon guy, so why bother?

For Anthony: Chafee's been consistently under 50% on job approval. It isn't going higher. Laffey's not worried. :)

Posted by: Will at June 18, 2006 3:18 AM

Well, you have all convinced me again.

Just like when I said Matt Brown would drop out and everyone "convinced" me that he was in the race for the duration.

Or when you "convinced" me that Whitehouse would immediately go negative on Chafee rather than stand aside and let Chafee and Laffey go negative on each other.

Or when everyone said that Carcieri was going to remain neutral in the Senate race.

Here's the bottom line. Look at poll number and fundraising. Chafee leads in both and Laffey is trending in the wrong direction in the polls.

This discussion is largely academic as we'll all know the reality in a couple of months.

Posted by: Anthony at June 18, 2006 2:09 PM

Anthony has no real comeback on the disaffiliations.

He was wrong when he said that Chafee would vote for Alito, and he was wrong when he said back in 2005 that Laffey would raise taxes in 2006. I guess he is also back tracking from his rumor earlier this year that if Whitehouse did not have a real primary that Democrats would make an effort to come into the Republican primary to vote for Laffey.

P.S. I love the line in the ProJo about the Democrat operative who disaffiliated because Chafee gave his grandson a job. Republicans and conservative independents must of love reading that.


Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 18, 2006 2:35 PM

Dear Will and others,

You're missing a couple of key stats.

There is no way to decide whether this is a positive or negative for Chaffee, Laffey, Whitehouse, Michaud, Carcieri, Fogarty or my pet turtle without two very important cross-tabs. They would be "age" and "location." The key targets being "over 52", Warwick (how obvious is that?) and East Bay Community (not so obvious.)

When someone comes back with a detailed analysis of the cross-tabs, then we can figure out if this means anything. By the way, it may mean nothing at all.

P.S. If you can figure out how I came up with 52, score yourself some major bonus, and math genius, points.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at June 18, 2006 7:58 PM

Marc: Nice job with the piece.

I support Laffey, but have concerns about the overall momentum of the race right now. McCain's comments at the Chafee fund raiser this weekend were unusually muted for McCain. His comments in the Projo sounded more like Ted Kennedy than the McCain I've heard on Imus. He obviously turned down the heat for his buddy, Linc.

The Chafee TV ads are relentless, and there has been no counter. In the mean time, Whitehouse's ads are taking a "high ground."

Maybe some of you have a steadier hand, but I'm not comfortable with all of this.

I think Laffey needs to (a) counter the Chafee ads now, not later; (b) present an image of himself that shows he can be a statesman as well as a fighter.

As far as the disaffiliations, I'm not yet buying that this won't hurt Laffey. I agree with J. Mahn, however, that Brown's West is an oaf when it comes to polling and analysis, but I still think a swarm of Dems could screw up the Republican primary and disenfranchise the true leaning of the GOP in RI.

I'd like to be more optimistic, but I'm feeling a little slippery underfoot at the moment. Maybe the momentum will change in the weeks ahead.

Posted by: Chuck Nevola at June 18, 2006 8:07 PM

I'm not back tracking from anything. I still don't think Democrats are going to enter the GOP primary to vote for Laffey in large numbers, although I do think there will be a few "insiders" who will support Laffey because they know he can't win the general election. As of today, I think my analysis is right on target.

Voters turn out for candidates that they support not for "fraudulent" candidates (see Reilly and Michaud) or for gamesmanship reasons (assertion that Democrats will take the time to vote for Laffey because it helps Whitehouse). Many moderates truly support Lincoln Chafee and they want him to win. That's why you saw Chafee's efforts to draw unaffiliated voters. Laffey's criticism of Chafee's efforts also helped bring further media attention and allowed the effort to reach voters it might never have reached.

Having said that, there is certainly an effort underway on the part of insider Democrats to support Laffey because he can't win a RI general election (see Bobby Oliveria). It will draw some voters as did Reilly's candidacy and as will Michaud's canidacy, but these votes will be minimal as compared to those moderates who are voting because they support Chafee on issues such as the environment.

You are correct on one point, though. I did think Chafee's vote on Alito was going to go the other way. I was also wrong on something else. When this race started, I was undecided on who I would support. I disagreed with so many of Chafee's votes and wasn't thrilled with Laffey's meglomania. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I would vote in the primary. Now, I've become a vocal defender of Chafee. Even I wouldn't have predicted that!

So of the dozens of predictions I've made, I agree that I have called one or two things wrong. Still better than most on the blog!

Posted by: Anthony at June 18, 2006 10:55 PM

OK, Bobby, I'll bite. You are interesting in finding out whether those who disaffiliated are over 52 because they were 18 or older (and would have already registered as voters) in 1973, when the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision. Given the importance of the abortion issue in party identification nowadays, persons who affiliated themselves with a party prior to 1973 could well be affiliated with a party with whom they do not agree on the most important issues of today.

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at June 19, 2006 11:47 AM

typo in my prior post; should be "interested" not "interesting"

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at June 19, 2006 1:39 PM

Lets not discount the idea that many people in RI are moved by Laffey's message and proven record. Laffey's message permeates party lines and most people don't play games with their vote. In the end, Anthony, Ian, Linc and Sheldon will be crying in their beers because people are going to come out and vote FOR Laffey because of what he stands for and for what it means for their future.

I worked a as a checker from openning to closing in a heavily democratic precinct in the 2004 primary and it was amazing that when asked which ballot they wanted, so many people just said "I want to vote for Laffey". The same sentiment is growing throughout the state and people are disgusted with Chafee's lies about Laffey's record of fighting for taxpayers.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at June 19, 2006 2:31 PM


You hit the nail on the head.

I've been saying this for months. Party affiliation isn't what it used to be. The Reagan dems are all over this race and they won't be voting for either of the peas (Linc & Casablanca) in the tax and spend pod.

Laffey will be the choice for anyone who wants true reform.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at June 19, 2006 5:22 PM

Dear Republican,

Very very close. You're very much on the right track. However, I'm thinking of an even more "Rhode Island" issue.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at June 19, 2006 6:45 PM

Hmm, let's see, 1972 was John Chafee's losing Senate bid. Did a lot of Democrats switch to the GOP for that election? If not, I don't know what it is (I'm not from RI).

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at June 19, 2006 7:51 PM

Anthony gets so worked up at times (I like lots of exclamation points!)

I like this one: "I disagreed with so many of Chafee's votes and wasn't thrilled with Laffey's meglomania. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I would vote in the primary. Now, I've become a vocal defender of Chafee. Even I wouldn't have predicted that!"

Let's see within four days of Laffey's annoucement Anthony was on this blog attacking Laffey and defending Chafee. I think it was pretty easy for him to predict that he would strongly back Chafee in this race.

Better yet, Anthony is a vocal defender of Chafee-too bad for Chafee. In the past he said that he was supporting Chafee, but without much enthusiasm, and a few months ago he said that Linc Chafee should probably have never entered politics. Pretty bad sign for Chafee if his vocal defenders are saying things like that.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 19, 2006 11:44 PM

Finally, your post accurately demonstrates my point!

You're absolutely correct--months ago I did say that Chafee shouldn't have entered politics and that I wasn't all that enthusiastic about supporting him. Now I'm a vocal supporter of Chafee.

What has changed?

I've been able to compare Chafee and Laffey head-to-head. I originally supported Chafee only because he could win the general election. Now I've had the opportunity to see Laffey in action.

I've seen Laffey use scare tactics to attract immigrant families, saying one thing to conservative voters and another to immigrants, all the while pushing to accept the Matricula Consular cards even though everybody from the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security says its a bad idea.

I've seen Laffey attack Chafee on security over "opposing" the invasion of Afghanistan, even though he voted in favor of it. That's not spin, it's dishonesty.

On top of it all, I've seen Laffey fail to gain any traction in the polls whatsoever. Even polls financed and executed by Laffey's largest supporter, the Club for Growth, show him losing in the primary, forget the general. The only thing Laffey has consistently shown in this race is that he can't win a general election.

That's why Democrats like Bobby Oliveria are supporting him--to give Whitehouse an advantage. Just like they're supporting Michaud and just like they supported Reilly. At least Bobby is honest enough to admit it.

If you think that it's a "bad sign" for Chafee that someone who was a lukewarm Chafee supporter six months ago is now an ardent supporter, then you can believe that. It makes about as much sense as your other armchair analysis.

Posted by: Anthony at June 20, 2006 9:00 AM

Dear Republican,

It was in the early 1970's that the Navy "pulled out of" the great city of Newport. (In the interests of full disclosure, I live there.) John Chaffee was Secretary of the Navy when this plan was put together.

While many folks were angry, major numbers lost jobs, there was a another segment that found the plan "honorable" and called it Mr. Chaffee's "finest hour as a statesman."

These folks were registered as Democrats but never really voted that way. They hate lobbysists, support Operation Clean Government, supported Carcieri the first time, maybe not so enthusiastically now. They live here in Newport and other sections of the East Bay.

Without question, they will honor the Father by voting for the son.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at June 20, 2006 1:08 PM

I think the Father/Son deal is over. You may have been able to draw the lines in 2000 when people knew so little about link. What we know now is that he is no John Chafee.

Also, I'd guess that 2/3 of those anti-military snobs favorable to the base closings in the early '70's are probably dead or retired to elsewhere...

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at June 20, 2006 3:44 PM

Dear Stretch,

Your mouth to God's ears. Wish I could believe it.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at June 20, 2006 4:12 PM

Another wonderful Chafee rant from Anthony complete with an exclamation point for emphasis.

But here are the real points.

First, Anthony has been a vocal defender of Chafee since the beginning of the Senate race.

Second, it is sad for Chafee when Chafee's most vocal defender on this blog periodically states he is not enthusiastic about his candidate or thinks Chafee should not have been in politics.

Third, like the Chafee campaign Anthony's focus is not on what Chafee believes or what he does but lies or hypocritical distortions about the Laffey's record (yes, oppose Laffey because of consular id cards, but support Chafee who wants amenesty for all illegals and throw in some social security benefits too).

Fourth, Anthony can believe the polls, but the Chafee camp doesn't since they went negative first, and their allies in Oct of 2005 went negative first (a sure sign that Chafee is in trouble/behind). (For all those who love polls, check out Survey USA, Chafee is below 50% (49% approve and 44 disapprove)-bad sign for an incumbent....only 39% of Repubs approve, and 49% of independents approve of Chafee- ahh, the beauty of negativity.

No exclamation points just analysis from a junkman sitting in a used armchair.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at June 20, 2006 8:26 PM

Hey all you Laffey people I just have one question. How is it that Steve Laffey says he is lowering taxes and when I opened my tax bill today it went up over $300? I thought Laffey was supposed to help us with our tax burden once Cranston's bond rating improved. Could someone please explain this to me. I am on a fixed income and can't take much more of this.

Posted by: Cranston Tax Payer at June 20, 2006 10:42 PM

Cranston Taxpayer,

I got one of those in the mail, too. What has changed is the $$ rate/thousand of real estate value. The problem is that the Mandatory State Revaluation of all RI property (November, 2005) has increased the assessed value (the number of thou$ands) that your property is worth. If the tax rate had not dropped, your taxes would have DOUBLED. Get it? One hand gives, the other takes away.

Posted by: t at June 21, 2006 5:14 PM

Cranston Taxpayer, I'm glad "t" was able to fill you in.

If you really want to understand where your money's going and how it is being managed, start going to Cranston City Council meetings. If you are truly concerned about the government's impact on your family, listen closely and stick around and ask questions. It will become very clear to you (eventually) who is working for you and who is in it for other reasons. The local papers will not give you a fair account of what takes place.

I learned the hard way about 7 years ago that if you want to know the truth, you have to seek it out. The Providence Journal and especially the Cranston Herald are not going to bring it to you. Don't count on 6, 10 or 12 either.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at June 21, 2006 9:52 PM

Tax bills in Cranston are up because of the revaluation, plain and simple. Mayor Laffey could score some points by "lowering the tax rate" because the city was still going to be making more $$ with the new property values.

If the state had not required the revaluations and Cranston's Tax Revenue was going to remain the same, I doubt Laffey would have lowered the tax rate.

So he scores a few points by saying "the tax rate is lower" but it's only lower because another "hand" gave him the ability to do so while still increasing city tax revenue.

No city in the state of Rhode Island had a higher tax rate then Cranston. The City of Providence was at $30.23/$1000 but that tax was only assessed on 50% of your property value where Cranston was 95%.

Ultimately, Laffey got lucky with the revaluations and saw an opportunity to score political points by "lowering the tax rate" even though it was an empty gesture since his residents were still (likely) paying more than last year.

Again, if the revaluations didn't happen or Laffey saw any way the cities tax revenue would dip, my gut tells me the tax rate would've remained the same or even went up.

Posted by: Seeing the Light at June 22, 2006 1:33 PM

Seeing the Light:

Laffey lowered the tax rate.

Everything else you said is seeing the dark.

Change your name to somehitng more appropriate.

Something like... I'm a moron or, My brain is dead.

Yeah that's the ticket.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at June 23, 2006 9:09 AM


If the revaluations didn't happen, do you think Laffey really would've lowered taxes?

I love how you resort to name calling and would rather take a one-line stance since you know what I said is true... Laffey could lower taxes because of the revaluation and without that it was unlikely.

Yes, he lowered the tax rate but only because of the revaluations and tax bills (and therefore city tax revenue) is up.

Posted by: Seeing the Light at June 23, 2006 1:26 PM

Seeing the Light:

I like facts. They are simple absolute truths. Laffey lowered the tax rate. Say it out loud slowly and clearly so it sinks in.


That is a fact.

Everything you suggest is speculation. Speculation can be tainted with unfounded personal opinions, unsupported theories and baseless innuendo. That’s what you did.

Here are some other words you can look up that may help explain your position:

Conjecture; Assumption; Guesswork; Supposition.

You don’t even know if what you said is true, so why would I or any other rational person ever agree to it?

I think I was right about you the first time.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at June 24, 2006 9:56 PM