Monday, January 30, 2006

Why Chafee Turned Tail


The blogosphere is already abuzz with speculation on Chafee's decision to oppose Alito. Rhode Island's Republican maverick expressed concern over the nominee's views on abortion and the extent of executive powers.

Sure, Chafee could be acting on his on visions for the SCOTUS, but he could also be influenced by some numbers that don't add up to nine. In 2000, he won with 57% in a state Gore carried with nearly 70. Polls from September show him leading his primary opponent and both Democrats. Sheldon Whitehouse(a former Rhode Island AG) is leading the Democratic field, and had called on Chafee to oppose Alito. However, has already slammed his opponent's decision, saying that, without support of the filibuster, it rings hollow. He's right. Chafee is a political chameleon in the truest sense of the word. This two-step allows him to continue to enjoy the "best of both worlds."

Chafee needs to disassociate himself with the Bush administration as much as possible. (Bush did much better than in 2000, but still didn't break 40% in the state). And, he can afford to do so, in more ways than one. In the past year, Bill Frist has raised nearly one hundred thousand dollars for his colleague, and wannabe majority leader Mitch McConnell, half that. So, with the debate closed, and Alito's nomination all but guaranteed, Chafee probably feels that he can vote with impunity. And, he may be right.

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