The Lincoln Switch

CHARLOTTE – Six years ago, Lincoln Chafee was a U.S. senator in Rhode Island. He’d inherited the seat from his just-as-liberal but more respected Republican dad. Conservatives saw him as an entitled, unreliable wimp; Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey challenged him in the 2006 primary, with Club for Growth backing. (Laffey’s press secretary is now Sen. Pat Toomey’s press secretary.) Chafee ran away from President Bush, but lost anyway, going down in the general election to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. Six years later, Chafee gave a politely-received conversion speech at the DNC. I happened to see Whitehouse in the arena. photo (20) “He’s doing a great job!” said Whitehouse. Did he ever suspect that Chafee would bolt his party? “Definitely. He was trapped when I ran against him, in an impossible spot.” Chafee wrapped up; Whitehouse put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. “All right, Linc!”