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?

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Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“Should Chafee win, will the Laffeyites … throw all ideology aside and vote against Chafee due to spite, even if he is still marginally more conservative than Whitehouse?”
Yes. Key word ‘MARGINALLY’.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Like them or not, Chafee’s positions are popular with general election voters in Rhode Island. He doesn’t need to build any general election “groundwork” outside of what he has already done. He just needs to make sure he has the funds to communicate his message.
Don’t forget, Chafee won his last general election by 16 points. Despite the negative ads and the free pass given to Whitehouse for the past few months, Chafee is still in a dead heat with Whitehouse.
Nothing in this race has changed over the past year. Chafee’s biggest hurdle is getting through the primary and making sure that genereal election voters are given the opportunity to vote for him again.
As for the 25% of the electorate who are Laffey supporters, it will be their call. Chafee probably can’t beat Whitehouse without most of them.
As for Laffey, he can’t win without Chafee’s traditional base voting for him. But even that won’t be enough. He’ll also need to convert about 10% of the people who currently say they are voting for Whitehouse AND capture over 85% of the undecideds.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

Whether or not Laffey were ever in the race, in an a general election between Chafee and Whitehouse I’d just sit that race out.
Chafee is so close to Whitehouse that the “lesser of two evils” concept is not a consideration.
To me it would be essentially nothing more than a “Democratic primary” between two liberals, and I couldn’t bring myself to vote “for” either one of them.

don roach
14 years ago

Laffey’s never been tested on the statewide stage. So it’s all conjecture as to whether or not he has appeal statewide. I just realized that I can’t vote for Chafee. Meaning, I just don’t like his policies that if he’s in a race against Whitehouse I may just not vote. But, I think I’m in the minority on that one but if there are a few thousand people like myself, it could swing the election.

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
14 years ago

Hi!
I suspect the above Anthony may be a town council president and Chafee staffer?
I like Senator Chafee but have decided to support Mayor Laffey.I will support the winner of the GOP primary.
Regards,
Scott

Phuleez
Phuleez
14 years ago

This obfuscates the real issue – Laffey can’t win. People think he is “unfit for command.” His manic intensity is not registering with voters.

Will
Will
14 years ago

The Berlin Wall was never going to fall, and the Soviet Union would last forever, too…

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Scott,
I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but since you might have missed it, I don’t work for anyone in government or for any campaign.
Also, if you vote for Laffey then don’t complain if you get Senator Whitehouse.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Will, I do respect your optimism, but by the mid 80’s it was clear the USSR wasn’t going to be around much longer. With a month to go in the primary, it’s increasingly clear that Laffey won’t be around after November.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“Also, if you vote for Laffey then don’t complain if you get Senator Whitehouse.”
Anybody but Chafee.

Will
Will
14 years ago

I’m willing to take the risk. Honestly, what would we really be losing? Chafee is an avowed leftist, has nothing but disdain for proven conservative principles, and is the antithesis of everything Republican. I cannot in good conscience support him. I made that mistake in 2000. I deeply regret it and I’m not willing to repeat it.
Frankly, in a potential general election matchup between Whitehouse and Chafee, I would probably follow Tom’s advice in that scenerio, and not vote for either of them. It might prove to be painful in the short term, but for the longer term health of the party, it’d be worth it. In the grand scheme of things, we would not be losing much.
PS In the hypothetical that Laffey doesn’t pull off the primary win (which I still believe he will), for the sake of a little irony, I was thinking of writing in “John Chafee”. 🙂

bountyhunter
bountyhunter
14 years ago

The vote “against” rather than “for” argument was trotted out in the 1975 Reagan/Ford match-up. Ford still lost to Jimmy Carter. As is the case with Laffey now, pundits dramatically underestimated Reagan’s overall appeal. He very well could have beaten Carter.

Rino Cooke
Rino Cooke
14 years ago

The Chafee campaign has been run so poorly that they need help to get out of their own way. Whatever the modeartor likes or doesn’t like about my comments I see it differently down here in Matunuck. The Laffey people aren’t off the hook either. They run a mean spirited campaign thats bound to lose against anybody. Whitehouse will win this seat. I see Chafee edging out Laffey in the primarly only to lose to Whitehouse by 5 or 6 points in the general election. The debate of Laffey and Chafee will be soon forgotten.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>Also, if you vote for Laffey then don’t complain if you get Senator Whitehouse.
I won’t complain about “getting” Senator Whitehouse; I’ll just complain “about” Senator Whitehouse … just as I currently “complain” about Senator Chafee.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Well, the truth comes out. So-called supporters of Republican “principles” aren’t at all concerned about Republican “principles”.
It’s about pure selfishness, just as some so-called “principled Republicans” helped Myrth York against Don Caricieri after he beat Bennett.
Here’s how our “principled: Republicans’ efforts will unfold –Laffey will endorse Chafee after the primary and present him with a check. Then Laffey’s people will work behind Chafee’s back to help Sheldon Whitehouse. Those are “principles” that I’d be proud of! What a surprise!
As far as I’m concerned, if you help to elect a Democrat or if you are a “Republican” that is willing to let Democrats to control the Senate just to “send a message”, you aren’t a Republican at all.
Yes, we may have a Democrat-controlled Senate that introduces higher taxes, will only confirm liberal Supreme Court justices and imposes a unilateral retreat from the War on Terror, but hey we sent a “MESSAGE”!
And MESSAGES are powerful as the United Nations shows on a daily basis.
Invade a country? We’ll send you a MESSAGE!
Commit state-sanctioned terrorism? We’ll send you an angry MESSAGE!
Build nuclear weapons? Just wait, you’ll get a super-angry MESSAGE and maybe even economic sanction restricting the number of almonds you can export!
If you can’t support the Republican Party, you should disaffiliate from the Republican Party because you’re not a Republican.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“If you can’t support the Republican Party, you should disaffiliate from the Republican Party because you’re not a Republican.”
Are you talking to us or to Chafee?

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Last time I checked, Chafee voted for Bill Frist to be Senate majority leader.
Laffey, on the other hand, gave money to Frist’s Democrat opponent.
So Greg, tell me again, who is supporting the GOP?

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“So Greg, tell me again, who is supporting the GOP?”
Was Linc supporting the GOP when he voted against Bush, against Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, FOR higer taxes, for the death tax, etc, etc…?
http://www.cafepress.com/rhodeisland2006

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

1. Did we get lower taxes? Yes.
No thanks to Linc.
2. Did Bush’s nominees get on the Supreme Court? Yes.
No thanks to Linc.
3. Did Chafee prevent either of these things from happening? No.
No, but he certainly isn’t entitled to take CREDIT for those actions now in a feeble attempt to court the same republicans he’s crapped all over for the last six years.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Greg, not surprisngly you missed the point. None of those things would have happened if the Democrats controlled the Senate.
But hey, Laffey is 30+ behind in the polls, so it seems ridiculous to talk about. If you want to elect a Democrat, that’s your right.

Phe Propterhoc
Phe Propterhoc
14 years ago

I think there is a grave underestimation of Laffey’s ability to outmaneuver the polls.
First of all, I think Chafee is in trouble (he’s showing signs of it) and will likely lose the primary.
Secondly, when the race between Laffey and Whitehouse really unfolds, Laffey will do to him what Carcieri pulled on Myrth Yorke. The problem I have, though, as a Republican is that Chafee’s record is, as was mentioned above, more liberal then many Democrats in the Senate with an ACU rating of a measly 12 this year.
I will say, though, that were he to win against Laffey, I would, with deep reluctance, vote for him over Whitehouse. Though a wise old friend of mine once warned me that in the case of a liberal Republican in the US Senate, it takes 12 years to replace him with a true Republican, but only 6 for a Democrat, because you have to go through an additional election cycle to remove and replace the liberal Republican. Food for thought.

Will
Will
14 years ago

“If you can’t support the Republican Party, you should disaffiliate from the Republican Party because you’re not a Republican.” That’s one quote I think you’ll soon regret. I support what the Republican Party stands for; not just pretending because of family tradition to share something in common with it. The way I look at it, as nice a guy as Chafee may be personally, he was never cut out to be in the Senate. He won in 2000, because of his father’s name and out of total ignorance of what he stood for. We know where he stands now, and it’s not with Republicans. We’re simply correcting a mistake. You occassionally have to prune a shrub for it to flower. There are a limited number of likely outcomes: Scenerio #1: Laffey wins the primary and then the general election. Net positives = An actual Republican representing us in DC; one less liberal in DC. Scenerio #2: Laffey wins the primary, but loses the general election. Net positive = message sent to RINOs all across the country that they may be next, if they don’t change their neferious ways. Scenerio #3: Laffey wins primary, but loses general election to Whitehouse. We’ve made an even exchange of one liberal for another. No big deal. Scenerio #4: Chafee wins primary, but loses in the general election (which if Chafee does win his primary somehow, I honestly think this is the most likely result). Scenerio #5: Chafee wins primary and general elections. Result: More of the same, which is to say, very little. GOP Senator Dr. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who was here in RI a few weeks ago, quoted William Wallace from the movie Braveheart, saying “People follow strength, they don’t follow kindness.” That’s as apt an analogy for Laffey vs. Chafee as… Read more »

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Will,
Your scenarios conveniently omit one of the most obvious situations. Strange, because every poll says it is statistically far more probable than your Scenario #1.
Scenario #6: Laffey wins the primary and loses to Whitehouse by 30 points in the general. The Democrats pick up MO, MT, PA, OH (where they are all currently ahead) and become the majority party with the help of Jeffords.
As a result, only certain judicial appointees will get confirmed by the Senate, so “Republican” jurists in the mold of Earl Warren, Sandra Day O’Conner, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and John Paul Stevens are appointed. This is the best case scenario and assumes a Republican will win the presidency in ’08. If a Democrat is elected, only the most liberal justices will be allowed through the Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy. We see Roe v. Wade and Casey affirmed and the government gains more power through cases similar to Kelo.
The Senate then moves to repeal Bush’s tax cuts as they are “fiscally irresponsible” and begins to pressure the President into withdrawing troops from the Middle East.
This pressure is applied by holding similar Senate hearings into the “illegal” activities of the Bush Administration in executing the War on Terror. As a result, al-Qaeda is emboldened just as they were after the U.S. response in Somalia.
Sound far-fetched? All of these goals have been publicly stated as being on the Democrat agenda should they regain control of the Senate.
But, hey you succeeded in sending a message to those moderates, right? Good for you.

Tim
Tim
14 years ago

Anthony,
Point well taken on the issue of so called Rhode Island Republicans acrtively working against their own to get Democrats elected.
These so called Republicans were behind the Dennis Michaud effort and are no doubt going to support Charlie Fogarty. This is why the Republican party in Rhode Island has never gotten off the ground. Far too many people in the ranks (John Holmes and the Bennett mob come to mind immediately) care more about their own self interest than in party growth and success.
As we’ve discussed in the past this is the very reason I will never join.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“As a result, only certain judicial appointees will get confirmed by the Senate, so “Republican” jurists in the mold of Earl Warren, Sandra Day O’Conner, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and John Paul Stevens are appointed. This is the best case scenario and assumes a Republican will win the presidency in ’08. If a Democrat is elected, only the most liberal justices will be allowed through the Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy. We see Roe v. Wade and Casey affirmed and the government gains more power through cases similar to Kelo.
The Senate then moves to repeal Bush’s tax cuts as they are “fiscally irresponsible” and begins to pressure the President into withdrawing troops from the Middle East.
This pressure is applied by holding similar Senate hearings into the “illegal” activities of the Bush Administration in executing the War on Terror. As a result, al-Qaeda is emboldened just as they were after the U.S. response in Somalia.”
If Chafee is re-elected, we can count on him to support the Democrats in ALL of these situations. So what’s the difference? Chafee has repeatedly said that, if his switching parties would be advantageous to the Democrats, he would flip and ‘officially’ become a Democrat. As it is now, he’s ‘unofficially’ a Democrat. He votes with them, but his (R) counts toward the total that allows the Republicans to retain power.
If the Republicans lose enough seats in this election, Chafee WILL switch parties to create a tie or give the Dems power. He simply CANNOT be trusted to remain a Republican.
I fail to see how your scenario won’t come to pass either way.

Chuck Nevola
14 years ago

From Greg’s point, above, that IS the question facing Republicans in September. Do we, as Republicans, want an “unofficial Democrat” or a real Republican as our nominee to face the Democrat Whitehouse???
With all the pragmatism and various scenarios listed above, I think that is the paramount question. Everything else is a diversion.
By the way, Will, I like Tom Coburn’s quote from “Braveheart’s” William Wallace with regard to Laffey: “People follow strength, they don’t follow kindness.” It’s an apt analogy and it is why Laffey won in Cranston in the first place.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Greg,
I’ve heard the “Chafee May Become A Democrat” thing for the past six years. It may work to raise money from the out-of-state Club for Growth crowd, but anyone familiar with RI politics knows its a red herring.
Although I won’t be surprised if Chafee takes a harder line anti-Club for Growth appoach if he does get reelected.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Ultimately, I believe it comes down to this:
Do we, as Republicans, want a party that stands for Constitutionalism and small goverment, or do we want power at any cost, including our own principles and beliefs, as long as the houses of government are controlled by guys with (R) after their name?
Chafee gives us the second scenario. I don’t know if Laffey will be any better, and I’m certainly not enthusiastically supporting him, but I’d support a Del’s lemonade if it ran against Linc at this point, just to get rid of that principally retarded hack who only GOT the job because the old people in this state didn’t realize they weren’t voting for his father.

cabot lodge
cabot lodge
14 years ago

Coburn can quote away…doesn’t take away the fact that without Chafee he may be out of committee chairmanships.

Tabby
Tabby
14 years ago

Laffey talks a good game about being the “real” conservative in this race, but he jacked up property taxes, giving Cranston the questionable distinction of having one of the highest tax rates in RI. The 20% spending increase he imposed on the city of Cranston doesn’t really jibe with my idea of small government. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

Chuck Nevola
14 years ago

Tabby,
The Democrats handed him a bag of garbage. Had he not raised taxes (I am an avid opponent of higher taxes), had he not done so, Cranston would be in ruins instead of having a top 100 rating with MONEY Magazine.
Tax rates, by the way, came down a little this year. It was somewhat obliterated – particularly on the eastern side of the city – by the obligatory revaluation. I know, I know. It was not much, but it was a step in the right direction.

Tabby
Tabby
14 years ago

Chuck, I believe that government should generate just enough revenue to run well. My problem with Laffey is that he raised taxes far more than was needed to make Cranston fiscally stable. Taxes went up so much (the average Cranston family saw their tax bill go up $1000) Laffey generated a $20 million surplus. Even the Democrats on the city council wanted him to stop raising taxes.
And Chuck, you’re right: the revaluation means Laffey can now say he lowered taxes, thus pacifying the Club for Growth while doing little to help overtaxed Cranston residents.

Will
Will
14 years ago

Tabby,
The reason for needing to create a surplus, wasn’t just that Laffey felt like raising taxes more than was absolutely necessary. It was necessary, first, because the democrats that had run the city into the ground had completely raided the “rainy day” fund, so there would be no buffer if something were to go wrong in the future.
Secondly, in order to get Cranston’s bond rating raised, building a surplus was necessary. Ultimately, it makes it a lot cheaper in both the short and long term for the city to obtain credit, in order to meet short term obligations, as well as to finance long term projects. It also means, that in exchange for money raised up front, the less will be needed in the longer term, thus resulting in less necessity for future tax increases. It’s short term pain in exchange for longer term fiscal health.
Again, all that shows is that Laffey is able to make tough decisions when necessary, without regard as to how it will benefit him politically.

Will
Will
14 years ago

Anthony, If I may state it bluntly, what’s the difference if Laffey loses the general election by 1 point or by 30 points? I think my Scenerios #2 and #3 cover those possibilities. If Laffey wins the primary, but loses the general election, we’ve simply exchanged one liberal for another, plus it has the side benefit of making Chafee an example to other RINOs across the country that his kind of behavior will not be tolerated. I really don’t think his specific seat will be the deciding factor nationwide anyway. Nationally, we’re either going to stay essentially were we are at, or we are going to take a mud bath and deserve every drop. I’m not very concerned about polling data, especially as the Republican Primary is concerned. Either one of them could just as easily lose or win against Whitehouse (though for much different reasons, which I’m sure I’ll cover in a latter post). All things being equal, I’d much rather have Laffey facing Whitehouse. At least there would be a substantive debate, from people of different backgrounds, with differing political philosophies and points of view; not just a bunch of “me too’s.” Here’s why I’m not willing to sacrifice adherence to principle for political pragmatism: If it came down to Chafee to be the “deciding” vote for control of the Senate, I DO NOT TRUST HIM whatsoever to remain as a member of the Republican Party in his second term. If he somehow did remain as a member of the party, I am convinced that he would hold the possibility of “jumping ship” over the Republican Party’s head for the entire six years of his second term (like he did before). I’m not willing to give to what sounds an awful lot like extortion, in order to retain… Read more »

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
14 years ago

Hi!
I will vote for Laffey and take the consequences!I like Linc Chafee and he gave me moral support when I opposed “Big Boxes” on Exit#1 in Hopkinton when I was a Town Council member in my town.I am seeking to return to the town council this year.I served previously from 1996 to 2004,.
The Governor did not even contact me.
Steve Laffey not only gave me moral support but allowed use of his name on my alternate slate of delegates and alternate delegates to the 2004 Republican National convention at large voted by the 2004 Rhode Island Republican State Convention.Wew lost I but appreciate that support.
Regards,
Scott

Scott Bill Hirst
Scott Bill Hirst
14 years ago

Hi!
I will vote for Laffey and take the consequences!I like Linc Chafee and he gave me moral support when I opposed “Big Boxes” on Exit#1 in Hopkinton when I was a Town Council member in my town.I am seeking to return to the town council this year.I served previously from 1996 to 2004,.
The Governor did not even contact me.
Steve Laffey not only gave me moral support but allowed use of his name on my alternate slate of delegates and alternate delegates to the 2004 Republican National convention at large voted by the 2004 Rhode Island Republican State Convention.We lost I but appreciate that support.
Regards,
Scott

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