September 8, 2005

Itís official

Carroll Andrew Morse

Steve Laffey is running in Rhode Islandís Republican primary for the office of United States Senator.

His message is going to be, what a very long time ago -- turn of the century long-ago -- would have been called Progressive Republicanism. In his announcement speech, the theme was fighting big drug companies, fighting special interests (he gave the specific example of sugar subsidies), and fighting big oil companies. He tied the national security of the United States to developing alternative energy sources and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

He also has a theme that is going to mesh well with what some would call his outsized personality: the smallest state in the union needs to have the strongest voice in Washington.

It is quite clear that Mayor Laffey is going to be a formidable candidate in both the primary and, should he win, in the general election.


Here is the full text of Mayor's Laffey's annoucement.
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This is indeed welcome news. I hope Laffey defeats Chafee in the primary, although it may not even come to that---Chafee may decide he'd have a better shot in the Democrat primary and switch parties (which would be a victory in itself). Here are my thoughts on Laffey's candidacy and why Chafee needs to be defeated:

And here are my thoughts from a while back as to why the GOP would be better off if Chafee became a Democrat:

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at September 8, 2005 8:54 PM

I'm really curious to see whatever polling Laffey has done that makes him think he can win. My hunch is that Laffey has ZERO chance of winning the general election against a formidable Democrat. If you are happy to see Laffey in this campaign, then I hope you are looking forward to hearing the following three words:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse . . .

Posted by: Brassband at September 8, 2005 9:41 PM

I've admired Laffey's GREAT public service he performed in taking on the public-sector unions - and showing it could be done, done successfully, AND the politician can benefit politically from it (are you listening RI GOP?).

OTOH, his pandering to the illegal immigrant lobby was really dismaying, and started my questioning of his conservative / Republican bona fides.

So, my curiosity piqued, I attended the Laffey rollout.

Laffey's speech could have come from a Democrat - he spoke of Kennedy, and even quoted FDR - the socialist who shredded the Constitution of the United States. And, of course, there was the usual pandering to the AARP "prescription drug benefit" crowd.

As best as I can recall, Laffey made no reference to any great Republicans, such as Reagan.

Of course, this event was mostly intended for the media, and Laffey's handlers no doubt want to portray him as a non-threatening alternative to Chafee, i.e., a "moderate Republican" (a/k/a neutered Republican).

That said, Laffey is starting to look suspiciously like another RINO, perhaps with a small "r" compared to Lincoln Chafee's large "R."

In any event, I intend to vote for Laffey in the primary, simply for the satisfaction of knocking Linc out of office (sorry RNC, but I support Republican principles, and ONLY those candidates which uphold them).

As for the general election: if I conclude that Laffey is a rino or RINO - or Linc Chafee wins the primary - I'll sit out that race or throw my vote away on a third-party candidate.

If that means a Democrat will win in 2006, so be it - better to (hopefully) get a real Republican to run then than send yet another rino / RINO to the Senate.

If I come to believe that Laffey is a real Republican, then I'll support him wholeheartedly. But the early signs aren't good - after all, Ronald Reagan had the courage of his beliefs, and never felt the need to mask them or "appear moderate."

Posted by: Tom Wigand at September 8, 2005 11:02 PM

AuH2O has it right here. Laffey will be an excellent candidate and a huge improvement over that boob in there now. (Who wouldn't be?) Laffey's style will allow him to put together the same winning coalition that made him Mayor of Cranston, and anybody who writes him off obviously doesn't understand the advantages of running an outisder campaign when the candidate has a record to back it up.

Posted by: SI Conservative at September 9, 2005 12:06 AM

I certainly understand some of Tom's concerns regarding the "populist" bent of Mayor Laffey's speech earlier this evening -- the big drug company bashing, the FDR quoting, etc., that would tend to send a chill down the spine any conservative. However, this really isn't much different than what Ronald Reagan did when he was running for CA governor, or as President. Remember Reagan's oft-quoted phrase, "you and I have a rendezvous with destiny"? It originally came from none other than FDR! Most people don't remember than, because Reagan used it so effectively to suit his needs, and it worked!
As Tom also pointed out, this event really was for the consumption of the media, and well frankly, those people that don't pay much attention to politics, and make their decisions based on first impressions. Laffey is in an awkward position, in that RI has about 9% GOP voter registration, with over half of all voters being unaffiliated. We also have an open primary system; which means that independents can choose to vote in the GOP primary. Laffey is smart enough to know that he needs to appeal beyond just the GOP base.
Laffey is not a RINO (Republican In Name Only) by any stretch of the imagination. To borrow from a political line: I know RINOs, RINOs are good friends of mine, and [future] Senator, you're no RINO! However, Laffey is a populist, in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt or Reagan. A populist, as generally defined, tries to appeal to those "bread and butter" issues which he believes most resonate with the "average" citizen, without regard to personal political costs.
Laffey will have about 9 months before the GOP endorsing convention, and about a year until the Primary, to interact one on one with Rhode Islanders, and to answer their questions about his beliefs on issues of interest. One needs to make a distinction between soundbites destined for mass consumption, and heartfelt beliefs shared one on one, or at a smaller gathering. The media tends to focus on minuetia, not on what motivates someone.
While Laffey cannot take the support of the GOP base for granted; he is certainly aware that there is serious discontentment. The GOP base simply isn't going to vote for Chafee again (fool me once...). However, it is up to Laffey to convince us to vote for him, instead of the alternate of sitting on the sidelines, as Tom suggested. What Laffey doesn't want is to continue is the status quo -- a hereditary monarchy dominated, watered down, democrat-lite mishmash that's on a road to nowhere.
He is not perfect. Know any perfect politicians? However, I support Mayor Laffey, for two simple reasons: his views more closely represent mine and those of the Republican Party, than those of the incumbent. Secondly, I believe he can win ... and so does he.
A friend in politics once told me, "do not make the perfect the enemy of the good." It's relevance here is this: while Laffey may not be a pure conservative clone, or electable in rural Mississippi, he is probably the most conservative person to have a real shot of being elected to higher office from RI in a generation. If we can send him to Washington, he could have a tremendous impact for our state and nation, for many years to come. Don't waste that chance, just because he's not 100% in agreement with us. Per Reagan's own words, I'd much rather have someone in agreement with me 85% of the time, than someone who almost never is at anytime.
Lastly, I for one find his mantra of "the smallest state in the union needs to have the strongest voice in Washington" to be extremely appealing. I suspect, if used correctly, it will prove to be what gets him elected.

Posted by: Will at September 9, 2005 1:54 AM


You forgot about Ike!

"As the Cold War escalated, President Eisenhower realized the need for a standardized system of roadways that would allow us to transport defense equipment from coast to coast. Out of that effort our highway system was born thus affording America protection and at the same time, facilitating interstate commerce not to mention a huge shot in the arm to the transportation industry."

Posted by: Andrew at September 9, 2005 9:25 AM

I already have a hard time taking Laffey's campaign seriously. He had an obnoxious press release, begging for press. I was not at the announcement but heard he had a marching band!!! Louder than the chears I heard hooting and hollering that sounded like a bar full of drunks. Not to mention his split from the RNC and the State R Party. Not a good start to a United State Senate campaign.

Nothing positive has emerged out of his announcement, and certainly the wrong kind of attention.

Posted by: Robert at September 9, 2005 4:51 PM

I did forget about Ike. Though he was not what I would call one of the "great" Republicans, he certainly was a real one.

As for seeking perfection, I do not. If I did I would not consider supporting Laffey once he pandered to the illegals.

I merely remain skeptical - my antennae are up. To me the jury is out as to whether of not he is a RINO. Under no circumstances will I support Chafee - I WILL vote for Laffey in the primary even if I become convinced he is a RINO, merely to extract vengeance upon Chafee, and will hope the enough Democrats cross-over to seal the deal (I would be surprised if Democrat operatives do not encourage their own to cross-over and try to bump-off Chafee in the primary).

For me at this point the only is whether I will volunteer time / effort to Laffey (or at least vote for him in the general election) ... and ultimately that depends on Laffey.

I WON'T support a RINO, or anyone I suspect might turn out to be one, even if "the lesser of two evils" - I'm sick of that "triangulation" game played against conservatives. I'd rather risk six years of Whitewash / Brownnose - for there is little downside; in the end, how much different is it when a Republican votes like a Democrat or a Democrat votes like a Democrat? - and retain the hope that in another six years the RINO lesson of Chafee will be learned and we'd get a real Republican to run.

In the meantime, here in RI let us do to Chafee what our friends in Pennsylvania were unable to do to Arlen Specter.

Posted by: Tom Wigand at September 9, 2005 5:26 PM


A healthy skepticism is certainly a good thing when it comes to politics. Laffey will have some convincing to do with people like yourself, and I don't think you are alone. Much like in the Kennedy/Rogers races, Kennedy already had a 40% negative to build upon. Unfortunately for Rogers, he did not really capitalize on that, and subsequently did not win. Likewise, Chafee has a built-in negative of Republicans that will not support him under any circumstance (such as you and I). However, Laffey still has to "earn" the votes of GOP and independent voters that might otherwise stay on the sidelines after the primary.
Unlike the last primary Laffey faced in Cranston, there will also be a Democrat primary. That means that it is far less advantageous for Dems to cross-over for the purpose of corrupting the process.
To me at least, there is a huge difference between having to choose between the lesser of two evils, and choosing to support someone with whom you might agree with 85-95% of the time on issues, versus someone with whom, on a good day, might be in agreement with us 25% of the time. However, that does not mean Laffey will not have to work for your vote, as thoughtful people like yourself (pandering?) are the ones that tend to vote in primaries.

Posted by: Will at September 10, 2005 1:16 AM


If I agree with Laffey on 85-95% of the issues - or should I say, "if Laffey agrees with ME on 85-95% ..." :) - then supporting him is a no-brainer.

While I'm sure that he and I see eye-to-eye on some issues, at this point I don't know where he stands on anything (other than his noxious pandering to the illegals). And the tone of Laffey's speech, though understandably light on specifics and intended to be "unoffensive," did not (yet) give me cause for reasurrance as to Laffey's "non-RINO" bona fides regarding other matters.

So I don't know where the percentage of agreement falls. I'm willing to be persuaded that he won't be a RINO - but I'm not prepared to vote for him in the general election (or otherwise support him beforehand other than my aforementioned definite "knock Chafee out" vote for Laffey in the primary)just based on a leap of faith. I need to be persuaded / assured.

Posted by: Tom Wigand at September 11, 2005 12:37 PM