The RI GOP’s Big Tent Must Be for Sleeping

On gut impulse, I attended the Republican Party’s convention last night. Given how busy I am, it turned out to be a huge mistake. I’ll put it this way: the Rhode Island Republican Party is so dull that it can suck the excitement right out of Steve Laffey. When members of the party are inclined to lean over into the press box to empathize about boredom — even expressing astonishment that Dan Yorke, who didn’t “have to be here,” had cared enough to show up — you know there’s a problem.
For one thing, the pacing of the thing was horrible. Granted that conventions involve a bit of process, such as the delegates voting for nominees, but they also ought to stir the base and create buzz in the media. I had to leave during the governor’s acceptance speech just after nine o’clock (and I’m sure Andrew will post on any subsequent excitement), but the only bit of political theatre that I saw came when Lincoln Chafee — he of the scripted hand gestures — finished his acceptance speech and John McCain’s voice suddenly blared over the speakers while a parade of Chafee supporters marched around the delegates. Of course, with magnificent symbolism, there was a mass exodus of the Chafee people thereafter. Those looking to Chafee to build the party more broadly in the state, it seems, would do well to look elsewhere.
Most notable, though, was the absense of the pot-stirring opposition. Dennis Michaud, running for governor, had some signs hanging from the balconies, but he didn’t even bother (or manage) to find somebody to nominate him for party endorsement. (According to Scott MacKay and Elizabeth Gudrais, Michaud appeared early on, but made his exit.)
Worse, Steve Laffey’s boycott of the event apparently carried over to his supporters, and like charade-candidate Michaud, he failed even to be nominated. A rumored Laffey-crowd walk-out didn’t materialize. With the only mention of his name being those made in nomination speeches for other candidates, Laffey might as well have been a member of a different party.
And that, to my mind, is why Laffey was the big disappointment of the evening, especially in contrast to the life that he brought to the convention a couple of years ago. Effective rebels find ways to highlight imbalances and injustices; they don’t assist in masking them by allowing themselves to be made irrelevant. If Laffey were truly the RI GOP’s subversive hope, he’d have at least found a way to stoke the doubts that those bored Republicans have in the party as currently constituted. As it was, we would have been better off staying home. And as it is, Republicans in this state will continue to need, as Chafee put it, “the votes of independents and Democrats to win.” Perhaps they should be invited to the conventions, as well.
ADDENDUM:
I do have some photos and video that I’ll try to add later.

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Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Justin,
You won’t ever hear a mea culpa from the Laffey supporters who were spreading the misinformation that Chafee was going to run as a Republican. For the most, part they either knew they were spreading false rumors or those people were just devoid of the ability to offer a dispassionate political analysis anyway.
It wasn’t too long ago that Steve Laffey was speaking at the “charade” convention that endorsed Chafee last night, whipping up the crowd and talking about how important it was to build the party.
About the only “charade” is Steve Laffey’s candidacy. In order for Laffey to win the election, he would need to capture every single undecided vote as well as convince 5-10% of the people who say they are currently voting for Whitehouse.
Laffey should come up with some reason to withdraw from this race to save face and ensure that his “legacy” isn’t losing the U.S. Senate seat.

Greg
Greg
15 years ago

I think oz has nailed Laffey’s angle. He’s going to campaign as “I’m not the party’s butt boy. I’ll work for Rhode Island, not the establishment.”
Not sure I believe that or if it will make a difference, but it certainly seems like that’s where he’s headed.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

The problem with Laffey’s angle is that he was a fixture at earlier GOP conventions. Now when he’s on the losing end, he calls it a charade. Laffey might have been more believable if he had said it in 2002 or while he was addressing the same convention in 2004.
I do like Laffey’s quote about Republican senior citizens found on page A8 of today’s Providence Journal, though: “Luckily those people are getting older and they’re dying”.
Yes, that’s a surefire way to attract support–tell elderly voters that you hope they DIE! Classic.
Hey, Steve your negatives are already above 50%. What are you trying to do, break 60%?

Logan H.
Logan H.
15 years ago

You know Anthony, I actually feel bad for you and your group of hard-core Chafee worshippers. When Laffey wins the election, you’re going to be the most irrelevent, ostracized politicos in the entire state. Enjoy the spotlight while you can! The dark and dreary world of political obscurity awaits you.

rhody
rhody
15 years ago

Sorry, Steve, but after you got your stooge on the RNC and he played power politics with the $500K the national committee allocated to state, your outsider pose does not ring true.
And your cavalier remark about seniors just alienated a kep part of the coalition that could’ve sent you to DC.
His self-immolation is approaching (and has perhaps passed) Matt Brown’s. And if he does soemone survive the primary, he won’t get a single Chafee backer’s vote.
Take your tired clown show back to Tennessee, Elmer Gantry. Maybe it’ll work there.

Will
Will
15 years ago

“Worse, Steve Laffey’s boycott of the event apparently carried over to his supporters, and like charade-candidate Michaud, he failed even to be nominated. A rumored Laffey-crowd walk-out didn’t materialize.”
Just to clarify the record, we [the Laffey supporters who actually attended] deliberately made a motion to close the nominations right after Chafee’s nomination, so that he would be guaranteed the party endorsement. There was no “he [Laffey] failed even to be nominated.” If he had wanted to be nominated, he would have been. He did not want to be nominated, because he was not seeking the endorsement. Judging from that lack of enthusiasm from a good portion of the floor, it might have even been reasonably competitive, though he’d have still not gotten it [had he wanted it to begin with].
I don’t know who started the “rumor” regarding a walkout. Was never discussed, as far as I know. You have to be present to walk out, and from what I could tell, most of the Laffey supporters just stayed away.
PS Other than that, your observations about boredom and disorganization could not have been better stated. I feel like like I lost 6 hours of my life.

oz
oz
15 years ago

Justin,
What a cluster!@#$ that convention was.
The only surprise came when “Jacketless” Jon Scott won the endorsement over Ed Leather, who looked like he got dressed in the dark.
Yeah, there was some political theater there. The best moment was when the conga line of people who got patronage jobs from elder and younger Chafee reached Hamlet himself. Hamlet put up his hand to high-five them, and having never seen such a common-man gesture from him, the front of the line stopped dead in their tracks. Priceless!
People are saying that Laffey boycotted because he couldn’t control the situation. I disagree. Did you notice that half the delegates did not clap or stand when Chafee “won” the endorsement? Like Will said, the people who voted for Chafee were the establishment plants. Most of the elected delegates support Laffey.
If I were running as an outsider, I would pray that nobody nominates me so I can use that to my advantage.
Laffey will win the primary. When push comes to shove in November, this “convention” makes Laffey look far more attractive to the independent voter than Hamlet, who has cemented his position as the tool of the RI Republican establishment, such as it is.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Oz,
Laffey didn’t “get screwed” by anybody. He tried to make a power play by putting Rob Manning as part of a last minute ambush and it worked. People got sick of Laffey and his tactics. When he tried to solicit further support among the RI GOP, he couldn’t get it. That’s why he didn’t pursue the endorsement. If he thought he stood ANY chance of getting enough support to get the announcement, he would have done so. He created his own problems.
C’mon, can you really be surprised that a guy who says publicly that he hopes Republican delegates DIE doesn’t get much support?!?!

Laugh Riot
Laugh Riot
15 years ago

I think that Laffey, who I have no love for, looked like a sore loser. Moreover, his comments that the Republican Party was fortunately “old and dying” weren’t just unsenatorial, they were mean spirited. A comment like that certainly isn’t funny. It’s cruel. I think it is a turnoff to voters and only adds to his negatives in the eyes of voters.

Tom W
Tom W
15 years ago

I have real doubts about Laffey – enough so that I may “sit out” the U.S. Senate race in November.
That said, voting for Laffey in the September primary and (oh, please God) kicking Chafee out of office will, like virtue, be its own reward!

Tommy
Tommy
15 years ago

what a professional convention the RIGOP runs…we need to let Sue Stenhouse go before everyone else, because she has to put her kids to bed. please…what was even worse was hearing morgan yell out each city and town. what a bore!!!

Joe Mahn
Joe Mahn
15 years ago

Yaaawwwwnnn!!!
I just woke up. Did I miss something?
J Mahn
PS. Anthony, I’m sure you realize this but somebody put a Dump Chafee bumper sticker on your Big Wheel.

Will
Will
15 years ago

As far as I know, the whole thing regarding Sue Stenhouse having to go was made up, or at least, overstated, in order to delay the voting for the Lt. Governor position, which would have normally been next, because they knew that Gen. Centracchio was running late from his Italo-American award ceremony, and the leadership of the party wanted the General to have a better shot at receiving the party’s endorsement. It worked.

Justin Katz
15 years ago

Your P.S. is not called for Joe. Don’t test me on my desire to begin weeding out the unnecessary invective.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Joe,
Just tell your guy Laffey to keep running the campaign he’s been running so far. His rude comments (wishing voters should die) and selfish, isolationist behavior (withdrawing from the GOP endorsment convention) make him look like he is running for the presidency of Iran, not for the U.S. Senate.
Just remember, after the primary is over, it is important for everyone to come together again to prevent the Democrats from winning the seat.

Greg
Greg
15 years ago

I dunno. The first thing I’ve LIKED out of Laffey’s mouth was him saying that the ineffective, senile leaders of our Republican party (like that 4,000 year old Newport woman who shall remain nameless running the whole show….) are dying off. When your party leaders can’t answer simple questions regarding press releases they themselves have supposedly released, it’s time for a change. And I mean a change broader than just the adult diapers.

Tim
Tim
15 years ago

Greg,
Keep talking! With an attitude like yours (and Laffey’s) the only thing being built in LaffeyLand is a tomb for his political career. And since Laffey hasn’t shown himself mature enough to be toilet trained at this point I’d watch the diaper references if I were you. Have no idea what the future holds for the RI Republican party but I do know one thing, Steve Laffey and his crowd will never be a force or source of reform.
Too selfish and self interested!

Fred Sanford
Fred Sanford
15 years ago

The state GOP party leadership is ineffective. Their endorsed candidates always lose hotly contested primaries. Almond, and Carcieri did not need them to win and neither will Laffey. Publically dimissing the RIGOP leadership, only helps him more with independents who don’t like insiders and grass roots Republicans who are more conservative. Playing well with insiders does not play well with voters. Now we are in store for a historic primary battle to determine if the RI Republicans are more aligned with Reagan (whose views Laffey more clearly espouses) or with Nelson Rockefeller (with whom Lincoln Chafee has much more in common). I guess Chafee has a death wish or irrational hatred for Laffey and stayed in the primary. I did state it was more rational for Chafee to become an independent but I guess Chafee couldn’t explain it to his allies in DC and psychologically he refused to be pushed out of the party of his ancestors. But unlike what some of the Chafee people on this blog had been saying almost as soon as Laffey annouced in the fall of 2005, Laffey is running as a Republican and more importantly, for the primary, he espouses Republican views on the big issues. Until we espouse Republican ideals and policies in this state and try to convince voters that they are correct instead of trying to run and hide from them, Republicans in this state will never be the majority party. Instead, the GOP in RI will be what he has been for decades-a small collection of politicians who win seats in the few safe republican areas of the state, and win a race statewide periodically because of some accident or error by the Democrats. In contrast, in Cranston, Laffey changed the entire make up of the GOP. Before, there were… Read more »

Morse
Morse
15 years ago

Fred Sanford,
I think Steve Laffey is turning off people from the GOP, not recruiting new blood. Every day he sounds increasingly irrational. Comments on a radio show about how those members of the party who disagreed with him will be “dealt with” or “fixed” after November, make him sound like Tony Soprano, not Ronald Reagan. Moreover, his comments about how fortunate it is that the leadership will be dying shortly disgust people. Laffey is not the future of the party, he is its destruction.

Greg
Greg
15 years ago

What Rhode Islanders call a “Republican Party” NEEDS a good destruction. God knows it’s not functional in its current form.

Greg
Greg
15 years ago

I just saw Michaud’s “Someone should wake this governor up” commercial. I’ve seen more professional campaign commercials from kids running for student council president. You’d think Dufault would get a REAL production team for these commercials…

Will
Will
15 years ago

It’s not so much “destruction,” as it is “reconstruction.” Think of the Phoenix rising out of the ashes … right now, the bird is resting in a volcano full of lava.

Greg
Greg
15 years ago

“It’s not so much “destruction,” as it is “reconstruction.” Think of the Phoenix rising out of the ashes … right now, the bird is resting in a volcano full of lava.”
But it thinks it’s still soaring the big sky. That’s the problem with our current ‘blue blood’ party leaders. They lack proper perspective.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Morse,
Your comments are accurate. Most people get turned off when a candidate comes across as arrogant. Laffey’s apology after he flippantly welcomed the death of Republican senior citizens rang hollow.
Sadly I believe that Laffey really would welcome the death of those senior citizens who oppose his candidacy. Most sane people would never have even thought to make such a bizarre comment, but Laffey saw that seniors overwhelmingly support Chafee over him. That alone was enough for him to make such an insulting comment.
I’m not sure how Laffey reconciles such vile comments jive with his self-proclaimed Christianity, but they don’t surprise me. And I don’t want this guy in the U.S. Senate.
As for Fred Sanford, wasn’t he working on Jim Bennett’s gubernatorial campaign when Bennett was running as a moderate against the more conservative Carcieri? Now he’s talking about how important it is to be conservative and how the endorsement doesn’t matter?

Joe Mahn
Joe Mahn
15 years ago

Justin:
Unnecessary invective? Have you no sense of humor?
J Mahn

Phe Propterhoc
Phe Propterhoc
15 years ago

I have a vague recollection, in the nineteen seventies, of wishing and hoping that the liberal guard in the RI Republican party would one day “die off.” You know, become a thing of the past. At the time, people like me were not wishing for their actual deaths, rather, we wanted to see a change to a Reaganesque direction, and so I can have some empathy for what Laffey was attempting to convey, albeit, it was not expressed in the most efficatious manner.
But come on. To harp on this mistake is a little disingenuous. The morning following his little verbal faux pas, Mrs. Propterhoc gets a call from the NRSC reciting every jot and tittle of the line and complaining of Laffey’s immaturity, and his inability to serve, spoken by Elizabeth Dole herself.
Arggghhh!!!

Justin Katz
15 years ago

I do indeed have a sense of humor Joe — enough of one, in fact, to understand that humor is extremely sensitive to context. And in the context of politics — especially heated politics, and especially with this particular political race — such humor tends to blend into invective. I’m not at all persuaded that you feel yourself to be joshing with Anthony, rather than getting in a good dig at his expense.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

I was also just informed the Fred Sanford used to be part of the RI GOP leadership that you now call “ineffective”. Well, Fred, that meant you had your chance to reform the RI GOP back when Almond was governor. You were part of its senior leadership. So what happened?
Why don’t you just come out and admit it’s not about issues or ideology? You have a vested interest in helping Laffey even though you know he can’t win the general election.

Ivan the elder
Ivan the elder
15 years ago

Young people. Without Laffey , noone ever even visits this web site. Laffey’s programs make sense to me. I will be voting for him. All the rest of this is nonsense.

John Galt
John Galt
15 years ago

Fred Sanford wrote: “In 2004, Laffey of course won a major symbolic victory by knocking out Montanaro as a state rep., which many believed would never happened.”
As I recall, the voters of District 15 turned out to vote for Jim Davey – NOT Steve Laffey. For anyone to take credit for this victory other than Jim Davey or the editorial board at the Providence Journal is both shameless and opportunistic.

Fred Sanford
Fred Sanford
15 years ago

I am flattered that an old TV junkman like me would draw so much attention. I must have struck a nerve.
First, ProJo 11/4/04 states: “Davey attributes his win to “the perfect storm” of factors, including his ability to connect well with people, especially when he went door-to-door, and the support of Mayor Stephen P. Laffey”. Sounds like Davey knows that Laffey had something to do with his win.
Second, I have already stated that Chafee is basically toast in the general (I notice few are arguing about the primary anymore)since he is an incumbent below 45% after spending lots of money. However, a Repub challenger can and has come back in RI in the fall from big margins because opinions about challengers are either very fluid.
Third, I enjoy how much time camp Chafee spends thinking about me…incorrectly by the way, but it is still fun to read. We all vote for different reasons, but there is nothing better than voting for a candidate with whom you agree with on most issues, a feeling I doubt most Republicans supporting Chafee can say, maybe they have “personal” reasons for their choice.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Fred,
We discuss your posts because you’re one of the few people on the Laffey side who offer any type of analysis. Although heavily skewed and biased, you at least attempt to back up your statements with statistics. Will also has some good historical analogies he brings to bear. Most of other Laffey supporters fail to do this.
It’s not worth my time to respond to some college kid talking about putting ‘bumper stickers’ on “Big Wheels’. I also avoid responding to comments like “Chafee is a socialist” because a quick check of national rankings show Chafee right in the middle of the conservative/liberal Senate rankings. No real Rhode Islanders believe it anyway, and these comments tend to help motivate Chafee voters and alienate potential Laffey voters–much like the Democrats who criticize Carcieri for being to tough on Beacon actually help Carcieri. So you can take a bow.
What I do find questionable is 1. your reliance on statistics, when Laffey all the polls show that it’s mathematically impossible for Laffey to win the general election and 2. your criticism of the RI GOP, when you have been part of its leadership in the past. It almost like you’re leading a double life, able to see some things and in denial of others.
Now onto one of your other comments. I’ve moved onto the primary because 1. Chafee appears to be OK in the primary, although it will probably be a single digit win and 2. even if Chafee were to lose the primary, this Senate race loses all interest as it’s become obvious that the outcome is a guaranteed Whitehouse win.

Justin Katz
15 years ago

Just a note:
The person commenting above as “Morse” is not Anchor Rising contributor Andrew Morse.

Cabot Lodge
Cabot Lodge
15 years ago

Mr. Ricci (Will), Mr. Frias (Fred Sanford), Mr. Laffey (Bounty Hunter) and others –
I think that you are being shortsighted. I honestly believe that you are making the Republican party increasingly irrelevent through your vitriolic attacks and attempts to impose some sort of monolithic belief system. The party needs to be big enough to encompass moderates like Chafee and social conservatives like Mayor Laffey. However, at the end of the day, in your hearts, I believe that you realize this is not an ideological battle, but a case of hubris and egotism. This seat was comfortably Republican until Mayor Laffey decided to challenge Chafee, simply to satiate his ego. If the Mayor was honestly committed to growing the party, he should have run against Langevin, who is in his district. Last time I checked the House still discusses issues like energy policy and taxes. I think that Laffey simply wants to knock Chafee off and become a talking head on some TV show. If he really is a financial genius, he should be able to recognize that you don’t overcome a 30 to 35 point deficit in a Blue state.
It’s sad, because you are angry people and ultimately you would rather destroy the party than help it grow. Of course, comments like Mr. Laffey made on the air the other day about seniors dying will only hasten the process. Way to pick a winning horse there boys.

Rhody
Rhody
15 years ago

My guess, Cabot, why Laffey didn’t run against Langevin is that he and Langevin are both hardcore pro-lifers. Methinks religious conservative Republicans steer clear of pro-life incumbent Democrats.

Grady Shipley
Grady Shipley
15 years ago

Why is everyone hatin’ on Fred Stanford?? I am going to get t-shirts made that say “Team Sanford” or maybe “Team Junkman.” Clearly Fred is a Laffey plant, I don’t know if it is former Prov GOP Chair Frias, but the cat at least brings his point of view in a well thought out manner, which I appreciate, yet often disagree with.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Grady,
No one is “hatin'” on Fred Sanford.
Some of us just find it interesting that Fred worked for a moderate (Bennett) against a conservative (Carcieri) in 2002 yet now talks about voting on conservative principles rather than electability.
Or that he criticizes the RI GOP for being completely ineffective although he served in its leadership for so long.
Or that he criticizes government workers while he draws his paycheck from state taxpayers and has a secure state funded pension.
All valid questions me thinks.
This takes nothing away from the fact that he expresses his views in a well thought out manner. I enjoy reading his comments and they have at times made me think and challenge my own views. This doesn’t prevent me from remaining suspect of the motivation for some of his comments.

Lamont Sanford
Lamont Sanford
15 years ago

Anthony:
I know you’ve never been to central LA but things are different here than in Little Rhody. My father grew up before the Civil Rights movement and he is… well an old fashioned junk man.
He does have an uncanny ability to see through smoke screens and half truths which seem to be the very bed rock of the arguments put forth by the Chafee supporters on this blog.
My Aunt Esther, who lives next door, would definitely join my dad in his strongest junkmanese when it comes to Chafee’s liberal stand on every issue important to average folk like us in the junk business. Dad used to say he would like to stick her face in dough and make gorilla cookies but for this race they would be in total agreement.
Tax tax tax… spend spend spend, it must be nice to get up in the morning and do whatever you want and not have to care a bit about the junkmen and everyday folk who work so hard for their money.
Well I gotta head out and pick up some scrap metal and make it over to the junkyard before lunch. Actually I am so glad I get to eat barbeque while you all eat those little watercress sandwiches.
Lamont Sanford

Fred Sanford
Fred Sanford
15 years ago

I continue to be flattered with attention from the save Chafee camp. I do like the backhanded compliments and sarcasm, especially “Team Junkman” T-Shirts..maybe I will write a book called Wisdom from a Junkman. In particular, I found the attacks on my motivation especially humorous and revealing of the Chafee camp’s general approach- don’t talk about the issues just try to make personal attacks. Anthony invents an identity for me and then goes about questioning my motivation. Too funny. Wow, I thought that tactic was directed only at Laffey himself I guess this junkman is really bothering all of you. Makes we want to post even more. Now for the real points: First, Anthony has already indicated that we are well on are way to losing the seat..at first I thought it meant he felt Laffey would win the primary, now I realize he thinks the so-called 800 pound gorilla Chafee is in trouble and is only “OK” in the primary and that he will probably lose in November. I guess the electability argument is fading. (By the way, as shown by the RIC poll, an incumbant who can only get 28% of his own party and can’t get more than 49% of independents is probably NOT OK in the primary.) Second, I do believe in a BIG TENT, but including Chafee in that tent makes it a BIG JOKE. I know that Liddy Dole and her indentured servants consider Chafee a Republican, but a guy who is the only Republican to vote with Democrats on the big issues (Alito, war, etc.) or is one of two to vote with the Democrats on other big issues (tax cuts) is not a Republican. He almost left the party in 01 and 04, if we need Chafee to hold on to the… Read more »

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Fred,
Chafee’s voting record is far more conservative than Langevin’s with the exception of the pro-life issue and a couple of other votes. Your explanation rings hollow. Laffey was afraid of running against a guy in a wheelchair, which was smart. He’d be losing by a greater margin than he is now.
Second, no one “invented” an identity.
Third, Laffey is losing by over 30 POINTS! As Carroll Andrew Morse pointed out, your belief that Laffey can pick up every undecided along with some of Whitehouse’s current supporters is not realistic. Contrary to your statements, undecideds have not broken in favor of challengers in Rhode Island. Even if 100% of them did, they would still lose.
Chafee is still in a good position to win the general election. Laffey is toast in the general election.

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