POLITICAL INSIDER: Chafee says primary results in Del. shouldn’t surprise Castle

By Philip Elliott, AP
Thursday, September 16, 2010

POLITICAL INSIDER: Chafee says Del. vote expected

WARWICK, R.I. — Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a one-time Republican, says GOP Rep. Mike Castle should have seen the tea party challenge to his Senate bid coming.

Chafee, running for Rhode Island governor as an independent, said his former party’s leaders have been forced to the right and have scared moderates out of the GOP. He pointed to Castle’s loss Tuesday as the latest example of a competent lawmaker losing his seat in an unrealistic purity test.

“These primaries, they’re destructive beasts,” Chafee said in an interview with The Associated Press at his campaign headquarters. “If those people are going to control the Republican Party, good luck. You’ll have a tough time getting into the majority. Ever.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on dispatches from around the nation.

Castle, a nine-term moderate Republican lawmaker, lost his primary against Tea Party Express-backed candidate Christine O’Donnell. Some national and Delaware Republicans have said O’Donnell cannot win in November against Democratic county executive Chris Coons; they worked unsuccessfully to defeat her.

Chafee, who survived a bruising 2006 primary but lost his re-election bid in the general election, predicted such divisive primaries are opening the door for a third party.

Chafee is running against Frank Caprio, the Democratic state treasurer, and John Robitaille, a former aide to the current Republican governor.

Democrats say veteran Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, until now considered a safe bet for re-election in November, plans to “run scared” to keep his seat this year — and every other Democrat should, too.

The party’s House campaign arm issued a memo Wednesday promising that the 84-year-old Dingell would win a 29th term in November. It said it was responding to media reports and whispers by GOP officials that Democrats are worried about the longest-serving House member’s chances in what’s shaping up as a grim year for their incumbents.

“With a national mood and a Michigan political climate that are both trending against incumbents, the Dingell campaign is simply being prudent and aggressive in the re-election effort,” said the memo from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Dingell “has never taken an election season for granted. All Democratic incumbents should take a page out of his playbook and ‘run scared’ each cycle, especially 2010, even if they are not truly afraid of losing.”

The memo notes that Dingell’s Detroit-area district is overwhelmingly Democratic — President Barack Obama won there in 2008 with 66 percent of the vote, while Dingell coasted to re-election with 71 percent — and says he plans aggressive efforts to turn out Democrats in November.

He faces Republican political newcomer Rob Steele, a cardiologist with tea party support. Michigan’s Democratic Party recently launched a website attacking Steele.

A conservative group founded by top Republican Party strategists is airing new ads critical of Democratic U.S. Senate candidates in Missouri and Colorado, maintaining a drumbeat of negative commercials that began in August.

American Crossroads is spending $550,000 in Colorado to portray Sen. Michael Bennet as a profligate spender and $330,000 in Missouri to cast Democrat Robin Carnahan as an ally of President Barack Obama and an advocate of his health care and economic policies.

The ads are scheduled to run for a week. They come in the wake of a multimillion-dollar wave of August advertising by American Crossroads and its sister nonprofit group, Crossroads GPS, in the key Senate battlegrounds of Nevada, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and California.

The two groups were created under the direction of former Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie and one-time George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove. As of last month, the groups reported raising a combined total of $17.6 million.

Crossroads GPS has already spent at least $5.6 million in ads since the beginning of August. American Crossroads has spent about $1.5 million.

American Crossroads communications director Jonathan Collegio said the ads are designed to counter Carnahan’s and Bennet’s claims that they are fiscal conservatives.

“These spots pull back their respective curtains to show voters what they really are: desperate liberal politicians addicted to pork, stimulus and bailouts, all at the expense of taxpayers,” he said.

Former President Bill Clinton is wading into the Nevada governor’s race, drawing about 60 donors to a $5,000-per-person private fundraiser for Democratic candidate Rory Reid.

The private reception took place Wednesday in an upstairs room while a crowd estimated at more than 1,200 waited for the former president to speak at a Reid rally at the Mandalay Bay resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Clinton’s appearance for Reid is part of a nationwide tour aimed at helping vulnerable Democratic candidates.

Recent Nevada polls show Reid, the son of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, trailing Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval by double digits. Reid, 47, was state Democratic party chairman and led Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign in Nevada.

Harry Reid is also locked in a difficult battle in November. He faces tea party-backed Republican Sharron Angle.

Quick hits:

— Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland is adding another job title to his resume after serving prison time for corruption: radio host. WTIC-AM’s website announced Wednesday that Rowland and the Rev. Will Marotti, senior pastor at New Life Church in Meriden, will host a new talk show titled “Church and State” weekdays. The former Republican governor resigned in 2004 and spent 10 months in a federal prison camp on a corruption charge.

— Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates have agreed to hold their second debate next month. Republican nominee Tom Corbett and Democratic candidate Dan Onorato will face off Oct. 16 at the studios of WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh.

— Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul has picked up an endorsement from the nation’s largest business group, which began airing attack ads accusing his Democratic opponent of backing Medicare cuts. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commercial that went on the air Wednesday across the state never mentions Paul’s name, but says Jack Conway supports Medicare cuts that would affect 113,000 Kentucky seniors.

Associated Press writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington, D.C., and Cristina Silva in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling of city in dateline.)

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