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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

'It's the War, Stupid'

Lincoln Chafee's primary win in Rhode Island is one of those good news, bad news things for the GOP. CNN delivers the good news part (emphasis mine):

Moderate Republican upstart Sen. Lincoln Chafee declared victory in a tough Rhode Island primary that bolstered GOP prospects for keeping control of the Senate in upcoming midterm elections.

Chafee defeated his conservative challenger, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, by a margin of 54-46 percent in Tuesday's primary, which Chafee said sent a national message that moderate Republicans remained "alive and kicking," The Associated Press reported.

The bad news is that there are hardly any moderate republicans anymore. Let's have a look at what CNN has to say about this moderate.

Chafee was the only Republican to vote against the Iraq war resolution in 2002 and the only GOP senator to vote against confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. He has also opposed Bush's tax cuts and a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

And Chafee particularly angered many Republicans in 2004 when he revealed that he had not voted for Bush's re-election, deciding instead to write in the president's father, former President George H.W. Bush, as a "symbolic protest."

So, in this Chafee-style moderate wing of the GOP, Chafee stands alone. Not much of a groundswell there. CNN tells us, "The race was seen as a test of anti-incumbent sentiment."


Here's the thing, incumbents almost never lose primary races. In fact, although some races are still too close to call, it looks like no national incumbent lost last night. It was probably a desire in the media for another Lieberman/Lamont story that cast this race as a test of anti-incumbent sentiment. The Connecticut primary race was big news, in large part, because the incumbent lost and, as I said earlier, that hardly ever happens. Chafee's win, like Lamont's, is a victory for anti-war voters and that's about all it is.

If we look at the CT and RI primary results, we have a good argument for an anti-conservative mood. And it would seem that the GOP agrees. As the incumbent, Chafee could expect his party's support. In Arizona, the party backed the moderate instead of the classic conservative. In fact, the move angered local conservatives, as this Arizona Daily Star editorial shows:

The National Republican Congressional Committee should have stayed out of the GOP primary race in the 8th Congressional District. Its support of candidate Steve Huffman sends the wrong message that national party leaders know better than locals who would be the best candidate for Congress.

The NRCC's move also has harmed local party unity and opened up Huffman to attacks within the Republican Party and from Democrats. If Huffman wins the primary on Tuesday, he will be a wounded contender heading into the general election.

The Republican Party broke its longstanding policy of not taking sides in primary races when it decided in late August to support Huffman with $122,000 in television ads. Not surprisingly, GOP rivals Randy Graf, Mike Hellon, Frank Antenori and Mike Jenkins took umbrage over the national party's meddling.

A poll sponsored by the Arizona Daily Star showed Graf leading the race by 8.5 points over Huffman, 33 percent to 24.5 percent. Hellon was third at 10 percent, with Antenori and Jenkins in the low single digits. The margin of error for the poll was 4.9 percent, with nearly 30 percent of likely Republican voters undecided.

Dang! It's pretty obvious that the GOP did not want the conservative to win. Graf won regardless and now faces a race against Dem. Gabrielle Giffords. It's a race Graf is widely expected to lose. In fact, dirty campaigning may have turned everyone other than the most frothing republican off -- increasing the danger that republican-leaning voters will just stay home in November.

The New York Times reported Sept. 11:

Unfair tactics. Lying. Spying. And that is just what the Republican candidates are accusing one another of in a congressional primary here that veteran political watchers are calling wild even by the sometimes unconventional standards of Arizona.

As for Graf, they had this to say:

The front-runner in the Republican primary, according to the most recent poll, is Randy Graf, a former professional golfer and state lawmaker who mounted a strong challenge against Kolbe in 2004. Graf, a supporter of the Minuteman Project, a civilian border patrol group, has campaigned almost exclusively on a pledge to ensure that illegal immigrants have no path to citizenship and that the U.S. border will be further secured.

But so concerned are national Republicans about Graf, who once sponsored a bill to allow patrons to carry guns into bars and restaurants (it did not pass), that they have taken the rare step of spending more than $200,000 on radio and television advertising endorsing the more moderate candidate, Steve Huffman, also a former state representative.

Doesn't really sound like a winner, does he? The guy's pretty much a nut.

So what the primary races can tell us is who's going to be running. As a signal for the general election they don't really mean a lot. Gallup shows congress with a lousy approval rating of 29%, most in congress are republican, a CNN poll shows that 53% of americans plan to vote for democrats, and the media's talking about an anti-incumbent movement?

There's an anti-conservative movement out there.


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