The inside story of the most shocking Republican primary of 2006—and what it means for the GOP’s future
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Why should anyone care about a Senate primary in the nation’s smallest state? Because that one unique race tipped the balance of power in Washington and exposed everything that was wrong with the GOP in 2006. It also points the way toward the Republican Party’s recovery, in 2008 and beyond.
Steve Laffey isn’t the kind of slick politician who wanted to be a senator since kindergarten. He’s a down- to-earth guy, with working-class Irish Catholic roots, who made good in business and then wanted to save his hometown from financial ruin. As the twice elected mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, he won over a city full of Democrats with Ronald Reagan’s classic message: Fight the special interests, cut out the waste, and opportunity for all.
But when he decided to challenge Senator Lincoln Chafee—the most liberal Republican in Congress— Laffey collided head on with the biggest names in the Washington Republican establishment. First, they tried to bully Laffey into dropping out. When that failed, they gave all their support and millions of dollars to Chafee, and even slandered Laffey to the press, breaking Reagan’s famous eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”
Conservative activists nationwide were outraged and supported Laffey with thousands of e-mails, phone calls, and small donations. It was the ultimate David vs. Goliath campaign, drawing national attention as“the first skirmish in a very important war,” as Pat Toomey wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
Now, with his straight talk and quirky sense of humor, Laffey reveals the inside story, naming the powerful people who felt so threatened that they resorted to lies and threats. He also shows how much fun it can be to run a go-for-broke campaign, fueled by gut instinct, adrenaline, some passionate staff and volunteers, and a whole lot of pizza.
Above all, Laffey shows what happens when a party gets so obsessed with holding on to power that it abandons its core principles. If Republicans read Primary Mistake and take it to heart, they will be back on the road to victory.
September 13, 2007