The power of the Netroots
The most hated man in the GOP, Republican
candidate, Steve Laffey
To Hold Senate, G.O.P. Bolsters Its Most Liberal
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
Published: September 10, 2006
WARWICK, R.I., Sept. 9 — With a barrage of television advertisements and the mobilization of its get-out-the-vote machine, the national Republican Party has lined up in Rhode Island to beat back a conservative primary challenge to the most liberal Republican in the Senate, Lincoln Chafee. The outcome on Tuesday could help determine whether Democrats have a shot at taking back the Senate.
In an extraordinary pre-emptive announcement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has said it will concede Rhode Island to the Democrats should Stephen Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, defeat Mr. Chafee in the primary. Citing poll data, Republican leaders said they saw no way someone as conservative as Mr. Laffey could win in a state as Democratic as this; as it is, they are increasingly worried about Mr. Chafee’s hopes in a general election.
The result has been the striking sight of the national Republican Party, dominated by conservatives, using resources to save the seat of a Republican who said he voted against Mr. Bush in 2004. He chose instead to write in the name of the first President Bush.
Mr. Chafee has opposed many centerpiece Republican policies, from the war in Iraq to tax cuts to most restrictions on abortion. This week, he helped force a delay on the confirmation of John R. Bolton as the United States ambassador to the United Nations.
For all that, Republicans said they expected to spend more than $1.2 million on advertisements attacking Mr. Laffey, saturating the television stations of this state, the nation’s smallest. One advertisement lifts a line Republicans have used in countless attacks against Democrats, mocking the mayor as “tax-and-spend Steve Laffey.”
Mr. Laffey’s supporters, led by the Club for Growth, an organization advocating tax and spending cuts, have countered energetically with advertisements that have hammered the senator as a Washington insider and a Republican reprobate.
The Republican National Committee has rolled out its 72-hour get-out-the-vote program — used to great effect in 2002 and 2004 — against one of its own this year. More than a dozen trained party turnout specialists are encamped at a local motel.
“If Laffey won, on Day 1 of the general election, it would be over for us,” said Brian Nick, the communications director for the Republican Senate campaign committee. Asked if his committee, run by Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, would then concede Rhode Island to the Democrats, Mr. Nick responded:
“No question about it. Would you play somewhere where you were down by 30 and you couldn’t move the numbers?”
The fight has laid bare the ideological divisions in the Republican Party as well as the difficult road it faces in the fall . The Senate seat, which Mr. Chafee took over from his father, John H. Chafee, after he died in 1999, has been held by Republicans since 1976.
Mr. Laffey, standing on his front lawn before a Saturday morning of door-to-door campaigning, said Washington Republicans were coming after him because they viewed him as a threat to their power.
“It is really incredible to watch,” he said. “Senator Elizabeth Dole and Karl Rove, and all those people down in Washington, they are just about power. The last thing anybody wants down in Washington — whether it is the Democratic National Party or the Republican National Party — is somebody there asking questions.”
The contest in Rhode Island, where fewer than 15 percent of registered voters are Republicans, is one of several primaries on Tuesday that will begin to set the final cast for the fall elections. It comes as President Bush has sought to shape the midterm campaigns with a new emphasis on national security.
To win the Senate, Democrats need to capture six seats, and Rhode Island is high on their target list. Both sides see Democrats as having a better shot at winning the 15 seats they need to seize the House.
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he was confident that the Democratic challenger in Rhode Island — it is likely to be Sheldon Whitehouse, a former state attorney general — could defeat whoever wins the Republican primary.
“We have the inverse of what is usually true,” Mr. Schumer said. “The Republicans are beating each other up in the primary, and our Democratic candidate has had two months to get to know the voters.”
If you wonder why Chuck Schumer didn't try this against Ned Lamont, you're the reason. He would have been dogged from DC to his Sunday press conference. We would have never stood for it. Yet, all Wal Mart Mike and the boys at Red State can do is whine.
My bet is that this backfires because this looks like bullying. It's a bad use of resources, but one we're happy to see. Millions going to Chaffee in a primary. Good
posted by Steve @ 12:26:00 AM