Hotline reports that the Republican 72 hour program has been activated to help Sen. Lincoln Chafee in his primary against Club for Growth-backed conservative Stephen Laffey:
Workers start arriving Friday and will be charged with sorting out the mess that Washington operatives believe is the Chafee campaign. First task may be to get Republican voters to forget Chafee's erratic performance in the last two of the four broadcast debates between the incumbent and his lively challenger, Cranston mayor Stephen Laffey.
It's hard to tell how close the race actually is, because Rhode Island allows Independents to vote in the Republican primary and it's hard to gauge their turnout likelihood or voting preferences. But a theoretical poll for the general election shows likely Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse in a dead heat
with Chafee and more than 30 points ahead of Laffey. This highlights a very real dilemma for frustrated conservative voters who want to see real conservatives in the House and Senate. In a liberal northeastern state such as Rhode Island, is it better to nominate a true conservative who gets trounced in the general election by the Democrat, or nominate a liberal Republican like Chafee who is far from ideal, but preferable to a Democrat? What if Chafee is defeated in the primary and Democrats end up taking over the Senate by one vote, with Chafee's seat swinging control over to the Democrats? There is clearly also a compelling case to be made that Republicans don't deserve to be in power if they are going to abandon conservative principles, but it is also worth considering whether someone like Chafee is the best chance Republicans have of winning in Rhode Island.
I think the Chafey-Laffey race also highlights something else. For all the David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan talk about a Lieberman-McCain party, the electorate seems to be sending the opposite message so far this election season. Whether it's Lamont vs. Lieberman, Chafee vs. Laffey, or Walberg vs. Schwartz in Michigan, people seem to want more polarization and real differences between the two parties, rather than more bi-partisanship.