Requiem for Chafee

Call me sentimental, but Sheldon Whitehouse's win over Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island's US Senate race is the one Democratic victory I can't get excited about.

I know, I know--Whitehouse's victory could end up giving the Dems control of the Senate. So what's my damage? First off, when I interviewed Chafee for an article on his Republican primary race against Steve Laffey, he struck me as this odd, gentle, fragile figure. I thought Laffey (who is neither gentle nor fragile) would bump him off, and I was happy when he didn't. Now, odd as it seems, I kind of feel like giving Chafee a consolation call.

But it's more than that. While I'd like to see a Democratic Senate, I also like the idea of the moderate New England Republican tradition continuing, and Chafee was the embodiment of this dying culture. I also think it's remarkable that Chafee--despite his delicate mien--had the guts to vote against the president on the Iraq war. (He was the only GOP senator to do so.) And then there's the fact that, on the whole, Chafee is probably more progressive than Democratic Senate newbie/Rick Santorum slayer Bob Casey.

Anyway, what's done is done. I've heard good things about Whitehouse, and he may turn out to be an excellent senator. Still, I can't help wishing Chafee was going back to a Democrat-controlled Senate next year.

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