A surprise announcement from former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-Rhode Island) in the past few days. Chafee has formed a 2016 presidential exploratory committee and may in fact run for the Democratic nomination and challenge Hillary Clinton. Chafee, originally a Republican, intended to run for the US Senate seat held by his father, who was retiring in 2000. However, following his father’s sudden death before his term ended, Chafee was appointed to the seat in 1999. He served out the remainder of his father’s term, won the 2000 election, and continued serving until 2007.
After his Senate term, he change party affiliation and ran for Governor of Rhode Island as an independent in 2010. He won that race and was eventually courted to embrace the Democratic Party. In 2013, he officially switched his affiliation once again and now identifies as a Democrat.
Report from CNN:
Lincoln Chafee announced a presidential exploratory committee as a Democrat on Thursday, arguing that Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq War disqualifies her from the presidency.
Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat former governor and senator of Rhode Island, is looking to position himself as a primary alternative to Clinton, the race’s overwhelming frontrunner.
In a phone conversation, Chafee cast himself as a staunch environmentalist who wants to protect civil liberties, avoid foreign entanglements and focus on growing the middle class.
He also looked to demonstrate he is not afraid to attack Clinton, at the same time that other Democrats considering run — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders — have shied away from direct attacks.
“Considering the premise for invading Iraq was based on falsehoods and considering the ramifications we live with now from that mistake, I would argue that anybody who voted for the Iraq War should not be president and certainly should not be leading the Democratic Party,” Chafee said in a phone interview with CNN.
“Yes,” Chafee said when asked if he plans on making the Iraq War central to his campaign against Clinton. “That’s one of our big differences.”
Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, a vote that haunted and helped sink her 2008 presidential campaign against President Barack Obama. At the time a Republican senator, Chafee was the only member of his party to vote against the Iraq War in 2002.
Chafee is an exceedingly unlikely Democratic candidate for president. Even opinion polls that include dozens of names of possible Democratic challengers have not mentioned Chafee as an option.
Chafee is even further off the primary polling map than Martin O’Malley is so I can’t see him getting much traction. However, I could be wrong and there must be something that ignited his desire to run in 2016. Perhaps he’s just putting his hat in the vice presidential pool, we’ll see how things progress. I’m betting this will be the first and last Chafee post I make with regard to 2016.