Chafee’s Perilous Pragmatic Appeal to the GOP
I understand what Sen. Chafee is doing by highlighting the polling data showing that Mayor Laffey is “unelectable” should he beat Chafee in the GOP primary and face-off against Sheldon Whitehouse in the General election. As Dan Yorke pointed out today, it makes political sense to scare people a little bit. But Yorke also made the point that it seems like the Senator is playing with a double-edged sword.
The continual pounding of the message that only Senator Chafee can beat Whitehouse leaves the impression that all Chafee has to offer is that he can hold the seat for the GOP. “Vote against Laffey, not for Chafee.” I’m not sure if this pragmatic approach is appealing enough to the more ideologically minded GOP primary voter. And I’m not sure if it does much to help Sen. Chafee as far as laying groundwork should he win the primary and have to face Whitehouse. By leaning so heavy on the anti-Laffey tactic, he isn’t giving many reasons for the General election voter to support him. It’s a tough spot.
And this all brings me to another question: how many GOP voters will vote for whomever emerges from the primary, whether it be Laffey or Chafee? There has been much back and forth (and vitriol) in the Comments of this blog between the two groups of supporters. Should Chafee win, will the Laffeyites take their ball and go home? Or throw all ideology aside and vote against Chafee due to spite, even if he is still marginally more conservative than Whitehouse? Should Laffey win, will the Chafee voters suddenly decide it’s not as important to hold the GOP Senate majority as they once did–especially given that it has been their main argument for keeping Chafee?