August 17, 2006

Chafee-Laffey II: Politics and Punditry

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senator Lincoln Chafee and Mayor Steve Laffey, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, debated on today’s Dan Yorke Show on WPRO-AM radio. Here are the notes I jotted down as they were debating...

Dan Yorke announces there are no rules for this debate!

Yorke plays a Laffey ad accusing the Senator of ducking debates, then asks Mayor Steve Laffey if he really believed that the Senator was not going to debate.
Laffey says that the debates should have started earlier, before vacation season in August.
Senator Lincoln Chafee says he has always debated in the past, eight debates in his last Senate campaign. His job in Washington made it hard to debate in person.
Yorke asks Laffey if the purpose of the ads was to make it look like he baited Senator Chafee into accepting debates.
Laffey says the ad meant what it said.
Chafee mentions he always debated in his mayoral races.

Yorke opines that it’s never easy to be challenged, then asks Chafee if he’s insulted by a primary challenge.
Chafee: No, I expected a challenge.
Yorke says Chafee is promoting the idea that Laffey can’t win, and asks Chafee to explain what that means.
Chafee says this is America, and people are free to run for the office they want, but many offices held by Democrats are going unopposed. The small base of Republican talent in RI could have been better spread around.
Yorke asks Laffey about shopping around for an office to run for.
Laffey: Running for Senate fits my talents
Yorke asks Laffey if any one thing “triggered” his choice to run for Senate.
Laffey says any disagreements with Senator Chafee are professional not personal and that he takes on different missions in different parts of his life. He saw Cranston going broke, so ran for Mayor to fix it, and always said he’d do something else once Cranston was fixed. Now Cranston’s fixed, but the US is on the wrong financial path.

Yorke asks what made Laffey think this was a winnable race.
Laffey answers no one thing and that he’s always been told he can never win. To win, you need money, a message, and a candidate, and his campaign has all 3.
Chafee says he knows from personal interaction with Laffey that Laffey came to RI for the purpose of getting to Washington. Running for Mayor of Cranston was low hanging fruit to start.
Laffey says he listened to the Senator before deciding to run for Mayor to be polite, but that the Senator had no influence on his decisions. It was conditions in Cranston that made him decide to run.
Chafee says he helped Laffey with meetings with Republican Senatorial and Congressional committees, and played a role in helping him get started.
Laffey says he doesn’t mean to be rude, but he’s made his political career on his own. Laffey also mentions Chafee’s remark about looking forward to ending his career; Laffey looks as public service as a way of giving back, not a career.

Yorke asks if a career in politics a lesser mission than other careers.
Laffey thinks that people should have real careers before entering public service. Too many people go into office not understanding the real world.
Chafee says he has had non-political jobs, a summer job, the racetrack job for 7 years, Electric Boat for 4 years.
Yorke asks Chafee if he wants to end Laffey’s career.
Chafee answers “absolutely” or at least be a bump in the road.
Yorke asks Laffey if he’s done with politics if he loses.
Laffey says he doesn’t think that way (that he might lose).
Yorke asks Laffey’s about Maureen Moakley and Darrell West’s prediction that Chafee wins the primary.
Laffey says Moakley predicted Chafee wouldn’t run negative ads. Then, the next day he did. She’s 100% wrong. And it’s unfortunate that people still go to Darrell West, he’s too partisan.

Yorke asks Chafee about depending on independents to win.
Chafee says he still goes to Republican events, spaghetti suppers and breakfasts. He represents a true Republicanism of civil liberties, environmentalism, avoiding foreign entanglements, and fiscal responsibility. But he says that independents are good for him too.
Yorke asks about the big gap between Whitehouse and Laffey in the polls. Since Laffey already has high name recognition, isn’t this a serious problem?
Chafee says since everybody already knows Laffey, it will be hard to close a 30-point gap. Jeff Pine was able to close a similar-sized gap because no one knew who he was when he was polling low.
Laffey calls Chafee’s answer foolish. He doesn’t enjoy anywhere near name recognition the Chafee name brings. Things will change radically after primary. Laffey also notes he won a high-turnout primary in Cranston, after being outspent 5-1.

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I thought the debate went extremely well for Laffey. The format seemed to allow for more back and forth, as well as depth (as opposed to the last debate). Laffey definitely came across like a winner; Chafee came across like a whiner, who just didn't know when to stop talking. He kept trying to bring up old subjects, once Dan had moved on to totally different ones. Chafee just came off as very snippy or chirpy (I'm at a lost for better adjectives).

Laffey definitely benefited by Yorke's playing of all the negative commercials that Chafee's been running, and how the Chafee folks have taken real events and warped them completely out of context. There is definitely a marked difference in tone between the two campaigns' commercials. I also liked how Laffey called out Chafee for repeated saying things that are not supported by facts. It's about time. If the Chafee folks thought he was ahead before today 1-0; it's now 1-1.

Posted by: Will at August 17, 2006 7:26 PM

Chafee's statement that the Republican Party was for environmental protection and avoiding entanglements overseas was all anyone needed to hear to realize he's far outside of the mainstream Republican Party. I don't think you could find a SINGLE democrat voter or elected official that would characterize the Repubs that way.

Laffey wiped the floor with Chafee. And after enjoying listening to Chafee contort himself for an hour in order to try to attract a single conservative Republican to vote for him I get to sit back and enjoy reading the contortions of his sycophantic supporters as they try to spin that Linc didn't sound like a complete disaster today.

Posted by: Greg at August 17, 2006 7:47 PM

The one thing I thought Laffey could have capitalized more on was at the very end of the debate when they got into the subject of the war on terrorism.

Chafee was his usual "peace in our time - Neville Chamberlain" self, and Laffey was forthright and on the money, but he could have really challenged Chafee on his overt pacifism. I hope he has a chance to nail him on this subject in the coming TV debates on this subject. RI Democrats are more conservative than what the polls are alluding to - that they are supposedly the most antiwar liberals in the country. They are really Reagan Democrats, and that's why Laffey will win against Whitehouse once he beats Chafee.

Posted by: Chuck at August 17, 2006 8:53 PM

Greg, I'm sorry but my thoughts on a
RI Republican are one of a pro-enviro,
anti-war, pro- diplomacy type of guy.
Chafee is the Man.

Posted by: drtingman at August 18, 2006 12:48 AM

The war in Iraq was a mistake. Chafee
realized there was no immediate threat
and voted against it. How can you fault
him for that?

Posted by: drtingman at August 18, 2006 1:14 AM

So, you're stating that Chafee is not only brilliant, but apparently possesses psychic abilities, too?

I'm sure Osama wants to engage in diplomacy! Would that be before, during, or after he annihilates us? You can have "peace" in a second -- surrender.

Please return to you parellel universe!

Posted by: Will at August 18, 2006 4:05 AM

Chafee opposed the war, and didn't have to take 88 different positions on it like Kerry did. That's the kind of leadership I prefer in a senator.

Posted by: Rhody at August 18, 2006 11:58 AM

Chafee opposed the war because after umpteen UN resolutions and dozens of stall and obstruction tactics by Sadam Hussein, he believes inspections could have worked. He thinks you can talk to guys like Assad in Syria and Chavez in Venezuela. He thinks you can negotiate with Hamas and Hezbullah. He thinks if we don't go on the offensive and rout out terrorism, everything will be okay.

What is he doing in the Senate?

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at August 18, 2006 5:26 PM


I agree. The scary thing is that Chafee not only votes this way he actually believes it.

Standing alone on principle is usually a strength. But when you are standing alone based on an irrational position that makes you wrong not independent.

Another thing that this plays into is Chafee’s position that changing things down in DC is “impossible” (his words in D1 and D2). Here is another case where Chafee is the can’t do candidate while Laffey is the “can do” candidate.

Career politicians have a tendency to compromise rather than fight when it comes to taxes and spending. They also pander to special interest strong arming because it gets swept under the rug in these humungous appropriations bills. Tax breaks for big oil and big pharma cost the taxpayers billions every year.

I won’t be surprised if Chafee repeats his mantra again during D3 on Wednesday. “You have to be able to work with people in the Senate. I work within the system down there.” Maybe Mr. Chafee doesn’t realize that he is in the majority. Laffey worked from a minority position (city and statewide) to get it done in Cranston. He fought when he had to (even going to court to end corruption) and worked with the bi-partisan leadership in Cranston to advance his own progressive reform agenda. In other words, he got along with everyone to help advance his pro management rights agenda for the city. That is true leadership, not just getting along for getting along’s sake. The bond rating agencies and the people of Cranston agree.

Rhode Islanders have a real choice in September. That is America at its best.

Laffey’s going all the way.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at August 19, 2006 11:54 AM