GOP's Chafee can't promise he'll vote for Bush


Geraldine Sealey
September 21, 2004 7:20PM (UTC)

A moderate Republican senator says he might have to write in a candidate on the ballot in November rather than vote for George W. Bush. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who has opposed many of Bush's policies from tax cuts to Iraq, says he is still a Republican and will vote for a member of his own party -- but just can't promise he'll vote for Bush. It says a lot about this administration when centrists like Chafee have to hunt around for a write-in candidate because going with the nominee isn't an option. But since Chafee isn't declaring support for Kerry, hasn't challenged anyone to a duel, or given any wild-eyed fanatical speeches, his comments probably won't garner the attention that GOP convention prop Zell Miller has received.

But they should. Chafee is now at least the fourth Republican senator in a few days to express serious misgivings about the president's ability to lead -- just six weeks before a presidential election. Chafee's remarks come on the heels of other prominent Republican lawmakers taking to the airwaves to criticize the president. Sens. McCain, Hagel, and Lugar aren't saying they won't vote for Bush, but their surprisingly sharp assessments over the weekend of Bush's handling of Iraq may well inspire others to vote against him. McCain even went so far as to say Bush has not been "as straight as maybe we'd like to see" with the American people on just how bad the situation is in Iraq.

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Sure, Chafee's ballot dilemma and the thoughtful criticism from McCain, Hagel and Lugar don't provide the high drama of zany Zell hurling verbal spitballs at his party's nomineee. But unlike Miller's gimmicky antics in New York, the doubts and concerns expressed by these moderate, respected GOP senators actually mean something.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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