Chafee Meets Silence in Scituate
In today’s Washington Post:
Lincoln Chafee was cleaning a horse stall on his well-manicured farm one recent early morning, describing his latest encounter with hostile home-state Republicans.
The GOP senator had appeared the previous night before the Scituate Republican Town Committee to seek the endorsement of the small but influential group. In his halting, soft-spoken way, Chafee defended his opposition to the war in Iraq, domestic wiretapping and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. as the principled positions of an old-school conservative.
Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response was blank stares. “Nobody listened to my reasoning,” Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. “They support the president on everything.”
Few paths to victory are more convoluted than the one Chafee must travel to win election to a second term this year in this strongly Democratic state. Chafee will face Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, a conservative, in the Sept. 12 GOP primary, and he must convince voters that he is “Republican enough,” despite his numerous defections from the party and President Bush. If he survives the primary, Chafee then must hope that he can hold the Republican vote while wooing moderate Democrats and independents to stave off what is sure to be a strong Democratic challenge.
“I’m running for opposite constituencies,” Chafee said. “It’s impossible.”
. . . [Cranston Mayor Steve] Laffey, 43, energetic and ebullient, is Chafee’s political opposite. Although he became wealthy working for a Memphis-based financial services company, he grew up as a lower-middle-class Cranston kid…Although Laffey raised taxes as Cranston mayor — a heretical act for a conservative Republican in Washington — he is admired for having turned around a troubled city, including by bucking powerful unions and even a platoon of highly paid school crossing guards. State and national Republican leaders strongly urged him to run for lieutenant governor, but Laffey believes his financial management skills can be put to better use in Washington. “I’m not into that,” Laffey said of the intraparty pressure. “I’m an outsider. I’m running against what’s going on down there.”
At least some Rhode Island Republicans agree: the Scituate Republican Town Committee. The group decided to back Laffey the morning after Chafee’s appearance.
Imagine that, Republicans supporting a Republican President on such issues as War and Supreme Court nominations. Whoda thunk?