Arsenault on the Rockefeller Republicans' decline

Mark Arsenault has been doing some freelance work for the Boston Globe since he took the ProJo buyout, and he has a good piece today on the vanishing breed of GOP moderates in New England.

The Northeast moderates, often called the Rockefeller Republicans after the former New York governor, were once as much a New England tradition as traffic jams on the Kancamagus Highway in leaf-peeping season. Their ranks included James Jeffords in Vermont, Lowell Weicker in Connecticut, Edward Brooke and William Weld in Massachusetts, and two generations of Chafees in Rhode Island.

But the rightward tug of Southern conservatives on the national Republican Party for the past 40 years has left the Northeast moderates in a bind - Democrats are taking their voters, and hard-line conservative policies in Washington are scaring off their campaign contributors, said former Rhode Island US Senator Lincoln Chafee.

"I just saw a bunch of Rockefeller Republicans camped out under an underpass," Chafee deadpanned in an interview. "They're all homeless, pushing shopping carts."

In 1973, 10 of 25 US House members from New England were Republicans.

There's one left - Christopher Shays of Connecticut, who calls himself an "endangered species." Shays faces another tough race this year, against Democrat Jim Himes.

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