Thursday, January 26, 2006

R.I. Senate: Does Chafee's Future Hinge on Alito Vote?

From WaPo's The Fix:

With the confirmation vote on Samuel A. Alito Jr. nearing, Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) faces a Hobson's choice that could dramatically affect his reelection campaign this November.

Chafee remains the most high-profile undecided senator on Alito, and regardless of which side he eventually chooses, he can expect to be bashed for it.

Chafee faces a primary challenge from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey(R). Should he get through that race, he will face off against either former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse(D) or Secretary of State Matt Brown (D) in a state that went for the Democratic presidential candidate by 20 points in 2004.

A Chafee vote for Alito will make for considerable fodder for either Brown or Whitehouse. But a vote against Alito could give Laffey the GOP nomination.

Asked about the seeming conundrum, Chafee campaign manager Ian Lang said that "from a purely political standpoint this is a lose-lose situation." Lang said Chafee will put aside political interests, however, and make a decision that is in the "best interests of the country and the best interests of Rhode Island."
Chafee, perhaps the most moderate Republican in the Senate, must be cognizant of the Republican base as he weighs how to respond to Laffey's primary challenge. All registered Republicans are eligible to vote in the Sept. 12 primary, as are registered independents. Democrats must re-register in order to vote in the Republican primary -- an unlikely proposition given that Brown and Whitehouse are staging their own competitive primary.

So in order to win the GOP primary, Chafee must not only convince a cavalcade of independents to support him but also take a chunk of traditional Republican votes. With that calculation in mind, one source close to the Chafee campaign said the the senator "can survive a 'yes' [on Alito] vote a lot easier in the general election than he can survive a 'no' vote in the primary election."

Chafee will certainly take a beating by Laffey if he votes against Alito's confirmation, but I don't agree with that last assertion at all. Every semisentient Republican voting in the primary, however pissed off they may be at Chafee, will know that putting Lafeey into the general election is tantamount to putting Whitehouse in the senate. And Whitehouse will beat Chafee to death with the Alito vote in the general election, particularly if Stripsearch Sammy delivers a high profile, constitution-busting vote in the coming months. RI may not be a bastion for the prochoice movement, but there are plenty other reasons why we hate him here.

Parenthetically, Whitehouse v. Brown will not be competitive, and from what I can see, the only reason Democratic voters will change affiliations to vote in the primary will be to vote for Laffey, not Chafee--thereby guaranteeing Blue next fall.


Blogger <-<--esoder<---<----<----- said...

Chafee would do well to switch parties and filibuster. See, I'm thinking outside the box here.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laffey's popularity swells. remember, they love in dem city of cranston. an insidere Dem in RI told me he would vote for Laffey because "the guy is honet and takes on takes on government that does not act on behalf of the people." Should be intetesting.

6:23 AM  

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