Why this crisis suits Chafee

Governor Lincoln Chafee, who's had a tough go of it since taking office on a crisp day in January 2011, has looked more statesmanlike this week than at any point in his tenure.

That is due, in part, to the nature of crisis. When something big and troubling happens in a state, all eyes turn to the chief executive. Think of Governor Carcieri after the Station nightclub fire.

But there's more to it. Chafee's strength is as the level-headed, detached (and sometimes mercurial) pragmatist. And that just hasn't worked all that well to date. When it came to the emotionally fraught morality play that was the gay marriage fight, he was not going to offer the moving speech that rallied the state - or play the tough, behind-the-scenes negotiator, a la Andrew Cuomo in New York, pushing the bill through the legislature.

And when it came to the budget crisis, his practical response - include a tax hike as part of the solution - was deeply unpopular; and his less-than-masterful hold on the bully pulpit made it difficult to overcome the opposition, if that was even possible.

But during the gubernatorial campaign, his measured approach meant a strong, if relatively obvious critique of the 38 Studios deal: this was an imprudent manuever, an ill-advised gamble. And it seemed authentic, given his broader call for a no-special-deals approach to economic development.

His prescience on the matter has borne itself out this week. And his grounded approach to moving forward - try to keep 38 Studios afloat, but don't throw good money after bad - looks measured, appropriate. This is a crisis well-suited to the governor's temperament. 

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