Wednesday, September 13, 2006



Last night, Steve Laffey lost to incumbent Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. Laffey is, to put it politely, a true-blue (or is it red) right winger. Chafee is a moderate, a Republican in name only, or a RINO. Hard right Republicans cannot stand Chafee, and I can certainly understand why - the guy actually did not vote for Bush in 2004 (he wrote in George H.W. Bush), he did not vote to support Bush in Iraq and he did not vote for Bush's various ill-advised tax cuts. But here's the rub: In Rhode Island, Steve Laffey is unelectable in the general election against Democrat Sheldon Whitehorse. Lincoln Chafee is. Polling shows that in a Chaffee/Whitehorse matchup, the candidates are in a statistical dead heat, but in a Laffey/Whitehorse pairing, Whitehorse is a winner by a large margin. So while the GOP is loathe to lose a Senate seat, which would have been a foregone conclusion if Laffey would have prevailed, they equally loathed seeing a traitor ('s word, not mine) to the party get reelected.
Now we have a situation here that is eerily reminiscent of the Connecticut Democratic Primary back in August. Yesterday in Rhode Island a Republican incumbent was almost unseated by a candidate universally considered to be on the fringe of his party's far right wing. One month ago, we saw a situation where a Democratic incumbent was unseated by a candidate some considered to be on the fringe of his party's left wing. In the latter case, it was a constant drum beat leading up to the primary by the media as a sign of the imminent surrender of the Democratic Party to it's fringe. In the former case... nary a peep. When Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman back in early August, the media and right wingers were up in arms about how the Dems are just lost and there purging their party of any moderates now that Lieberman, a huge supporter of Bush's Iraq war policy, was defeated. Yet here is a clear and identifiable instance of a party almost purging its own moderate elements and moving to its far right edges, but there's been no commentary and mainstream coverage chronicling how this would have been the end of the Republican Party as it ran further and further to the right. Hey, all I'm asking for is a little balance from the doom and gloom political pundits.
So anyway, by continuing to support Chafee, the citizens of Rhode Island pushed back against the more fringe elements of the GOP and have given themselves a fighting chance of holding the seat come November. And I'm sure this will cause no end of consternation among the righties because, after reading some of the things I've read over in Rightblogistan, it seems that they would rather lose a seat in the Senate than see Lincoln Chafee reelected.

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