Welcome to the National League, kid
Wherein Chafee challenger Stephen Laffey finds that there is more to running for national office than whacking crossing guards and getting handjobs from the right-wing noisemakers on the Projo editorial board:
The GOP gloves are off as TV ad attacks Laffey
WASHINGTON -- With more than 11 months to go before the primary election, the Rhode Island Republican Senate race went negative yesterday:Because they hate, you, Mr. Mayor. They really, really hate you. And these are the guys on your side of the aisle. Who's making the popcorn?
* The Senate GOP campaign organization televised an attack ad in Rhode Island that paints Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey as a "slick" guy who criticizes oil companies today as a Senate candidate, but once "ran a company selling oil stocks" and "made a fortune." The spot features a cartoon-graphic of oil oozing over an image of Laffey.
* Laffey fired back at Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee's vote this year for a Senate energy bill that would have given "billions in tax breaks to the oil companies" and at Chafee's acceptance of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the petroleum industry.
* Chafee accused Laffey of "hypocrisy" and said the mayor was warned in advance that national Republicans would "play hardball" if Laffey challenged his reelection to the Senate.
* Chafee, Laffey and their campaigns argued about the kind of gas mileage they get in the cars they drive.
The day's exchanges, brewing backstage for weeks, are a reminder that Chafee's reelection campaign carries national implications, high stakes and the strong possibility of record-high Rhode Island spending and advertising battles.
The launch of the negative ad also suggests how seriously Chafee's allies take the challenge from Laffey, a former investment banker who portrays himself as an outsider who ran for mayor to save his hometown from bankruptcy.
Yesterday afternoon, Laffey gathered reporters on the sidewalk outside Chafee's Senate office on Westminster Street in downtown Providence. He criticized Chafee for his June vote on the energy bill and the campaign contributions he has accepted from oil companies. Laffey also blasted the GOP senatorial committee for running the ad against him and challenged Chafee to a series of debates. He also needled Chafee as the beneficiary of inherited wealth. "If it will make him feel more comfortable, I'll even debate him at the yacht club of his choice," Laffey said.
Yesterday the exchange escalated with the GOP committee's broadcast of the 30-second attack on Laffey. As an announcer asks, "Have you seen this guy Steve Laffey?" the ad shows an image from Laffey's own kickoff ad of last month. The voice says that the "same Steve Laffey" who criticized oil companies once "ran a company selling oil industry stocks on Wall Street. Profiting from offshore oil drilling. The oil companies made a fortune. Steve Laffey made a fortune." As the spot returns to the clip of Laffey pledging to "stand up to special interests," a graphic technique drips "oil" over the screen, including Laffey's image. The announcer concludes, "Slick. Steve Laffey. Laughing all the way to the bank."
"You have to wonder, why aren't the Washington Republican bosses running negative TV ads against Sheldon Whitehouse? Why aren't they attacking Matt Brown?" Laffey said, naming the two Democrats in the race for Chafee's seat.