An Airing of Weaknesses
It seems to me, Don, that the well-poisoning of your closing question elides precisely the benefit of a Laffey run for U.S. Senate. Tweak your perceptive hypothetical of a primary-free Chafee’s positioning:
While sitting on the sidelines eating popcorn, Chafee would have been able to size up his opponent, research weak points, and come out swinging after the Democratic primary.
A primary race with a rumbler like Laffey will undoubtedly expose Chafee’s weaknesses (even more than the Senator has managed to accomplish simply by being in view of the public in a post–9/11 world). Of course, one should offer the passing disclaimer that citizens benefit whenever candidates’ weaknesses are exposed, but that byproduct of a primary race is even more valuable for Rhode Island Republicans: No matter who wins the primary — or the election, for that matter — the political calculus will have become less of a factor in our state.
One thing that Laffey has shown successfully as mayor of Cranston is that Rhode Island needs to be shaken up a bit. If that means that we have to fall to form with another Democrat in a key government position for the time being, at least we on the right will have the opportunity to offer a different vision without a might-as-well-be-a-Democrat Republican blurring our voices with the mild morphine drip of political power that he represents.