Lincoln Chafee is in a bind. There are two leading Dems in the State running in the next Senate race and one right-wing potential candidate who keeps flirting with entering the race. TWN has some inside information on the various campaigns that I will be writing up and posting later — but for now, we don’t want to go into too much detail.
Suffice it to say, Chafee’s real problem in this next Senate race — as things stand now — is with the right side of the equation, not the Democratic challengers.
Chafee has been hoping that if he behaved on Bolton, the Bush administration and Republican National Committee would restrain the conservative candidate. There are no guarantees in all of this and the candidate in question somewhat flamboyantly flirts with the possibility of running and really sticking it to Chafee.
On top of that, the Chattanooga Times Free Press had this bit to offer on the cold shoulder the White House seems to be giving to Chafee on the fundraising front:
Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the maverick Republican facing strong primary and general election challenges in heavily Democratic Rhode Island next year, raised only $139,000 in the first quarter this year.
That amounts to a virtually empty war chest for a challenged incumbent senator. Sens. Jim Talent of Missouri and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, expecting strong Democratic challenges, raised $2 million and $1.3 million, respectively, in the first quarter.
Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman has attempted, unsuccessfully so far, to dissuade Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey from challenging Chafee in the Republican primary.
Although the White House is supporting Chafee, there are no plans for President Bush to attend a major fund-raiser for the senator in June.
Here is my suggestion to the Senator:
Do what you said you were going to do. Investigate this to its end — either the removal of the cloud over the Bolton nomination, or work to end it. Become more agitated than Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and George Voinovich about this nomination of John Bolton. You know he is the wrong guy. You said he would be no where near the top of your list.
Use the Bolton nomination to show your leadership and resolve. Make your decision one of bold conscience. TWN will respect your decision either way you go — as long as it is rooted in your obvious and transparent efforts to get the full picture on John Bolton.
Make this a case of good public policy and good theatre for your constituents so that they can see you doing something great with regard to getting Americans the Ambassador to the United Nations they deserve — rather than getting someone there as the result of some cynical triangulation in the Lincoln Chafee political world.
It is not legal to tie campaign fundraising to votes or political favors — unless perhaps in the world of Tom DeLay — but it seems to me that your campaign coffers will grow when people see you take an important, determined stand. Your fundraising will have to come from Dems and Republicans in your next race.
Go after them both — but to do so — stick to your guns, once you have investigated the heck out of these John Bolton questions.
I very much want you to stay in the Senate. Various key Rhode Island politicos — Democrats and Republican — have shared with me the limits of both Democratic contendors for your current job. I can’t believe that your party would upend you in a primary battle, and in most formations, the Chafee ticket will win if you work to turn the impression of recent “spinelessness” on Bolton to some kind of principled resolve (and I say that even if you continue to support John Bolton).
TWN is pleased to learn that Senator Chafee recently dined with General Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to the President, at the Alibi Club.
Scowcroft works in cryptic but effective ways, I think. And he won’t oppose John Bolton in any public way — but my hunch is that he raised problem after problem after problem on John Bolton. Scowcroft reportedly did the same in private conversations at the recent christening of the RAND Corporation‘s new building in Santa Monica.
Senator Chafee, one piece of friendly advice from TWN — As you are gearing up for a more vigorous investigation of Bolton issues between now and the May 12th business meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee, have your fundraisers consider asking some of these people to campaign for you in the State and to headline fundraisers: Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, John Whitehead, Christine Todd Whitman, Susan Eisenhower, Brent Scowcroft, Carla Hills, Chris Shays, and others.
Figure out where you are standing — be smart about your footing — and then stand strong.
— Steve Clemons