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Thursday, August 31, 2006

RI-Sen: Laffey 51, Chafee 34

Posted by James L.

So says a new Rhode Island College poll (likely Republican primary voters; June in parens):

Lincoln Chafee (R-Inc.): 34 (36)
Steve Laffey (R-Club For Growth): 51 (39)
MoE: ±5.1%

Whoa. Now, I've been hearing a lot of whispers that Chafee has been running a surprisingly poor campaign, including a completely uninspired debate performance, but still, this poll comes as something of a shock. This isn't my favorite kind of poll for two reasons: 1) that MoE is just too darn high, and 2) it doesn't attempt to identify independent voters who will cast ballots in the Republican primary. There's no way for us to tell how many of these indies will turn out, and whom for.

Check out this money quote, though:

"Since early summer, Senator Chafee has been unable to expand his base of support from roughly one third of the likely Republican primary voters. The Lieberman phenomenon, where a partisan base closes ranks around the 'true partisan' candidate, seems to be at work in Rhode Island, as it was on the Democratic side in Connecticut. Laffey's efforts to link Chafee with the extremely unpopular President Bush also appear to be paying off," said Profughi.

Confounding. Laffey is somehow tying Chafee--the only Republican Senator who was consistently against the Iraq War from the very start--to Bush, and it's working. Not only that, it's working to sour the Republican base on Chafee. Damn, I guess Bush's 76% disapproval rating in Rhode Island cuts pretty deeply into the insignificant base of registered Republicans there, too.

As you may know, Swing State is collectively rooting for Club For Growth's Steve Laffey to crush Chafee in the primary. If you still don't know why, just refer back to these poll numbers to give yourself a better idea as to why a Laffey candidacy will be a windfall for Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse (as well as the DSCC, who can afford to channel money elsewhere should Laffey win).

Posted at 03:27 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Rhode Island | Technorati

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As a partisan Democrat (but also a progressive-liberal), I don't want Laffey to win the primary. Sure, from a pure "horse-race" perspective, it will make it easier to turn that seat blue, but it will be just another right-wing nut who has a bully pulpit to speak from. Another right-wing Republican nominee (even if he doesn't win) pushes the political center of gravity more to the right. That has long-term consequences beyond November 7th.

If we want Democrats to talk like Democrats, having the Republicans nominate right-wingers won't help us. If Laffey wins, Sheldon Whitehouse will then be able to run against Laffey and scare us into voting for him because we have "no choice.' But if Chafee wins the primary, Sheldon will have to earn our support and convince us that there is a difference. That Chafee as a moderate Republican is still too conservative for us, and that he is a true progressive Democrat who could get us excited.

I've seen the polls between Chafee and Whitehouse -- we can still pick up this seat, albeit it will be more difficult. And when we do defeat Chafee in November, it will be because Whitehouse stood up for Democratic Party values and we had a mandate to move this country to the left.

Posted by: Paul Hogarth [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 03:57 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

All of the usual caveats about anecdotes apply to this, but: I know two people in Rhode Island. They've both traditionally basically been independents - likely to vote Democratic, but proud of being non-partisan. In the past few months I've talked to them both about politics, and they've both become what Meteor Blades labeled "irate, partisanized moderates."

This rebounds onto Chafee specifically, because they both voted for him in the past and I could have seen them voting in the primary to protect him. But now, as one says, "not even out of respect for his father."

Posted by: MissLaura [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 04:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Interesting thoughts, but I really have to believe that the $2 or $3m that the DSCC will save from a Laffey candidacy is much more enticing. Simply put, this is money that could be dumped into a whole host of states that are much redder, including Virginia, Montana, and Missouri.

As for Laffey pushing the political center to the right--I doubt it. He'll fail in November, leaving the RI GOP in dire straits. Besides, it's not like Chafee has been much of a progressive stalwart--it's clear that the conservative Republicans in the Senate have him by the balls (eg. his reluctance to oppose Bolton). If we allow Chafee to survive with NRSC assistance, he'll just be FURTHER beholden to the radical right-wing of the Republican Party. Which, from my perspective, is the "mainstream" 95% of the party.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 04:05 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The only caveat I'd offer is that if Laffey wins, his poll numbers and name rec will go up - just like Lamont's did after he won. I think we all realized that those polls which showed Lieberman crushing Lamont in a three-way before the primary were flawed for that very reason.

That said, Whitehouse won't suffer any of the taint that Lieberman did upon his loss. So while Laffey's name rec might increase, there's no reason for Whitehouse's negatives to go up. In other words, I think if Laffey wins, the first post-primary polls will show a closer race than what we've seen so far in Whitehouse-Laffey head-to-heads, but I don't think it'll be as dramatic a tightening as some of the post-primary polls in CT.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 04:22 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Right. Laffey has room to grow--but not THAT much room.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 04:24 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I say go for the victory as easily and cheaply as possible. We have a lot of Senate and House seats to win, too many to be concerned about a right-winger getting a temporary soap box to spout from. anyway, his defeat will also be a defeat for his ideas. Especially if he is really stomped.

Posted by: Stewart [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 04:24 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Chafee missed his chance to save his political career when he opted not to switch parties on the basis of "not upsetting his deceased father", a lifelong Republican. He took a gamble sticking with the GOP and looks likely to get burned by it, particularly this year where Chafee presents absolutlely no level of usefulness for voters of any political stripe. Republicans view him the same way we view Zell Miller, while Democrats who may be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he was in the minority party now simply see him as an enabler for Bill Frist (or in next year's case, Mitch McConnell) in maintaining a counterproductive majority.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 04:56 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

As a Californian, I admit that I know absolutely nothing about Sheldon Whitehouse -- other than he is the presumptive Democratic nominee.

But I will tell you about the last time Republican nominated a right-wing kook in my home-state (kind of like Laffey.) It was 2002, and our beleaguered Democratic Governor -- Gray Davis -- was up for re-election. He was afraid that Republicans might nominate a moderate, so his (and the CA Dem Party's) strategy was to promote the conservative Republican in that race, and hope that they had this weaker opponent win the primary.

They got what they wished. And yes, Davis won that year because his Republican challenger was to the right of Attila the Hun. But it was a short-lived victory. Absolutely nobody voted for Gray Davis that year because they actually liked him. The Republican opponent was so much worse, that we had no choice at all but to vote for Davis.

You all know what happened to Gray Davis one year later.

I've given up on the Democratic strategist game of "let's hope the Republicans nominate a right-wing kook." I don't want to do that anymore. Sure, it gives us an easy victory come November -- but it's a short-lived victory.

Posted by: Paul Hogarth [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 05:40 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Well, I hate to see the Gop lose a RINO, but its worth it. This will prove that that that party has been taken over by the neocon niutjobs and they can be blasted for doing just that. It also takes the whining away from the Lieberman/Lamont decision (Which I'm sick of hearing about from their side). If it starts up again, we can just point to Rhode Island. As much as Chaffee has not supported Bush, he's still in the Gop's pockets as evidenced by the RSCC campaign $$$$$, and in this seemingly more anti-incumbent year I can see Chaffee going away in the Primary, giving us an easy victory with Whitehouse in Nov.
As far as the California comparisons, well, Davis would not have beaten RINO Riordan and Bill Simon -R-Neocon has disappeared from the California political scene, as will Laffey in Little Rhody.
Davis inherited and died (politically) for Pete Wilson's mess, it should have been a Republican taking the heat for the Utilities Deregulation & Enron debacle. That was a clear failure of the Calif Dem Party establishment to convey the message and it looks like they have the same fate planned for their handpicked candidate Phil Angelides. Still no Angelides ads in NorCal. Its been non-stop Gropenator ads for months.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 06:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Also I don't believe their is a recall method in RI.

Gray Davis could be handing over the reigns to Cruz or to Angeleides without that bit of "progressive" legislation.

I also don't think that if Laffey wins, his numbers will go up much at all. Maybe 5-7 points tops. Remember, Lamont's numbers ALSO went up because he is a progressive Democrat in a Democratic state. Laffey is a conservative Republican in a Democratic state. The variables are different.

Posted by: nada [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 07:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In California, the long-term future will be bright for the Dems-- an Angelides loss this time around is a Villaraigosa win the next time.

And, as for Rhode Island, I agree with James L. I hope Laffey wins the primary, such that the DSCC can spend its resources elsewhere.

Posted by: The Caped Composer [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 08:51 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Oh, 2006 will be bright for the Dems in CA for almost all the down the ticket offices, and 2008 should see an easy re-take of the Gov's office, whether its a certain LA Mayor or San Fran Mayor or any other number of potential officeholding winners. unless of course Phil A. gets $90 million dropped in his lap, does a makeover and turns this around cause there is no way we should be re-electing the puffy pop-icon. Maria's pit bull may yet show his true colors. Kerry got crucified for "flip-flopping", Arnie has turned it into an artform and much to the dismay of the Cal Gop conservative base.

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 31, 2006 11:15 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Back on topic of this post (i.e. the RI race); there's something that really irks me about the way the media is portraying this.

Here's a quote from salon's Walter Shapiro,

"If Laffey, a populist conservative, were to win the primary, all the polls and portents suggest that he would be whomped by Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse, a former state attorney general."

Now, why when a moderately left or progressive candidate beats a milquetoast Democrat in CT, he is referred to as representing the "elitist" or "ultra liberal" elements of the Democratic party, but when a far right wingut could beat a milquetoast republican, he is referred to as "populist" and "feisty".

So if a republican is way far to the right, he's a man of the people, but if a Democrat is actually being a Democrat, then he must only be representing those pointy-headed libruls in Yale.
Because all those working class republicans in RI (there's so many of them you know since Laffey is a populist) just hate social security, medicare, and public schools, I guess.

We got a lot of work to do to tear down the republican noise machine's steorotypes that they've ingrained into the media.

Posted by: nada [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2006 10:39 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Nada I actually think the media is portraying Laffey acurately. Let me first say they have and continue to misrepresent Lamont so I share your feelings on that. I think that among conservatives he would be best decribed as a populist. He's not Santorum or Brownback he's not even a Bush lapdog like Allen. McCain would probably be the best comparison.

Posted by: safi [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 1, 2006 11:02 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment