I don’t see why Republicans should put any effort into reelecting Lincoln Chafee (RINO-Rhode Island) to the Senate. Chafee votes with the Democrats on just about every vote that counts, and he cannot be counted upon to support Bush’s nominees or even to stay a Republican in the future—if the Senate was 50-50, he would have almost certainly pulled a Jeffords, as he has threatened to do in the past. And with 54 other Republicans in the Senate, the R next to Chafee’s name doesn’t mean squat.
A better solution might be to kick Chafee off of a sub-committee chairmanship or something so that he makes it official and finally leaves the GOP. I assume that the Democrats would discourage other candidates from running in the Democrat primary against someone who recently switched parties in order not to discourage other RINOs from switching, and I think that a Republican Senate candidate with decent name ID would have a good chance of defeating Lincoln Chafee in a general election, especially one in which Governor Don Carcieri (a very popular pro-life conservative) is running for reelection.
Chafee sits in the following committees:
1. Foreign Relations (3rd of 10 Republicans and Chairman of the Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Subcommittee)
2. Environment and Public Works (5th of 10 Republicans, and Chairman of the Superfund and Waste Management Subcommittee)
3. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (6th of 9 Republicans)
I’m certain that the GOP would be able to keep its current 2-seat advantage in these committees even if the number of GOP Senators dropped from 55 to 54. In fact, I believe that this could be accomplished by keeping the same number of Republicans and Democrats in the committee, which, given the fact that Chafee has been an imposter on the GOP side, would mean that the GOP would have a net gain of 2 Republicans on those committees (one fewer de facto Democrat and one more real Republican). If the size of the committees was kept the same but Chafee became a Democrat member of the committees, it would benefit the GOP particularly in the Foreign Relations Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, in which Chafee has seniority and would certainly be given a spot by the Democrats. The lowest-ranking Democrat—in fact, the only first-year Democrat—in each of those committees is one Barack Obama. The Democrats won’t want to drop their “rising star” Obama from those two committees, but none of the other Democrats with more seniority will give up without a fight. Republicans could just sit back and enjoy the show.
But if, instead, the Democrats insisted on each of those committees adding 2 members with the GOP still having a 2-vote advantage (which could happen, since it would mean that the GOP would have closer to 54% of the members of those committees as opposed to a bit over 55%), then the GOP would still have a pickup of two real Republicans. Chafee would join the other Democrats on the committee, but 2 real Republicans would be added to the committee. Obama would stay put, but we would have much stronger control of the agenda of the committees than we currently do.
As for the 2006 election, as a Republican, I’d rather have a Republican (such as Mayor Stephen Laffey, or even ex-Governor Lincoln Almond or ex-Congressman Ron Machtley) face Chafee in the general election than face Matt Brown or whomever in the general election, since I think that Chafee, even if he ran as a Democrat, would lose to a good Republican candidate. *Somebody* has to be willing to run against Judas Chafee if he finally switched to the Democrats. And in the meantime, we’d have some truth-in-labeling with Chafee as a Democrat and we’d be able to add two net real Republicans to all of the committees in which he sits.