Chafee and Alito: Which Way to go?
[Sen. Lincoln] 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.”
Laffey, who is running as a populist outsider and to Chafee’s ideological right, has already sought to make the senator’s indecision on Alito an issue in the campaign. “As long as we have known Senator Chafee he has shied away from taking a firm stance on the critical issues of the day,” Laffey said in a recent news release. The release also noted that Chafee didn’t vote for President George W. Bush in 2004, recalling Chafee’s decision to cast a symbolic vote for former President George H.W. Bush instead.
A source close to Laffey said “voting against Alito, and doing so in the indecisive manner in which [Chafee] is conducting himself, underscores exactly what Rhode Island Republicans most dislike about Chafee — he sides with the liberals on all the big issues, and he’s weak and can’t make up his mind.”
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. . .
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.”
I wonder: what does Sen. Chafee consider “the best interests of the country and the best interests of Rhode Island”? I hope he elaborates when he announces his decision.