Everything you need to know about Lincoln Chafee’s sudden willingness to admit that he is a Democrat, despite running for governor of Rhode Island as a fake independent, is in his poll numbers.
The official story will be that Lincoln Chafee could no longer stand how “radical” the Republican Party had become. The real story was that the deceptive political stunt that Chafee used to get elected has hit the end of its road.
According to a new poll from Brown University, Chafee’s approval rating is just 26 percent. That’s compared to 64 percent for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras (D) and 56 percent for state Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D) — both potential candidates to challenge Chafee.
The obvious question is why Democrats should choose Chafee in a time when incumbents are not terribly popular. And the answer is money. In a primary, Chafee is likely to be able to raise enough money to be able to crush rivals who could crush him in an open election.
And once Chafee is the nominee, he can hide behind party identification and make the race into a national issue while giving constant interviews about how radical the GOP has become.
It’s cynical politics at its worst, but that is also who Lincoln Chafee is. And a man who is his equal in the field of political cynicism has already endorsed the move.
“I’m delighted to hear that Governor Chafee is joining the Democratic Party,” Obama said in a statement distributed by the Democratic National Committee. “For nearly 30 years, Linc Chafee has served his beloved Rhode Island as an independent thinker and leader who’s unafraid to reach across party lines to get things done. I enjoyed working with Linc when he was a Republican in the United States Senate, and I look forward to continuing that collaboration on the issues that matter not just to the Democratic Party, but to every American.”
And that’s the tip off. Chafee will be getting national support via Obama Inc. because he’s a useful club to use against Republicans. Most of us are already familiar with the ritual apostate tour that so many Republicans go on. Bob Dole just popped up to give his version of it. But that now sums up Chafee’s entire career. He’s hanging on to a job that he mishandled badly because the Democrats need a token ex-Republican to bash the Republican Party.
Besides Charlie Crist.