Laffeystock: A possible Democratic pickup in Rhode Island?
Stephen Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, has decided to challenge incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee in next year's Republican primary. It looks like Laffey could do it, too, because Rhode Islanders are largely Democrats, and those that are Republicans tend to be conservatives, and they're the type who'd be more likely to vote to throw out an incumbent if he weren't conservative enough—which is a common complaint that Republicans have about Chafee.
Republican strategists had tried to discourage Laffey from running, out of fear that he couldn't win in the general election, and would thus essentially hand a Republican seat over to the Democrats. The iconoclastic Laffey is going ahead and running, anyway.
I'd have figured that Chafee's safee, but the National Republican Senate panel apparently doesn't think so, as Laffey's own site states.
I still think Chafee will move on to the general and probably keep his seat, but it's hard to say. Last year, Pennsylvania incumbent Arlen Specter faced a tight primary challenge from Republican Representative Pat Toomey, and was nearly ousted in his primary. Like last year's Pennsylvania race, Rhode Island's will be decided in the Republican primary. Rhode Island's Democratic contenders Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown poll about evenly, so I'd bet that the winner of the Democratic primary would beat Laffey and would pose a strong challenge to Chafee. Chafee vs. Brown or Chafee vs. Whitehouse would be interesting; run Laffey against either of those guys and it's a blowout, with another Democrat heading to Washington and Laffey heading back to Cranston.