Sept. 1, 2006 PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- One of the nastier attack ads currently being aired anywhere in the country is being aired here, and is sponsored by the National Republican Senate Committee, the official arm of the GOP majority. The 30-second spot employs all the traditional techniques of political fear-mongering: a voice-of-doom narrator, grainy photographs, purported FBI warnings, menacing footage of a Willie Horton-like villain (a Hispanic illegal immigrant) and the stark closing question about the challenger, "Will he put our security at risk in the Senate?"The problem for the Republicans is that if Laffey should win the primary he doesn't have one chance in hell of winning in November giving the Democrats a pick up.
The factual basis for the commercial is flimsy. The mayor of Cranston agreed in 2005 to accept Mexican-government-issued matricula cards as a valid form of identification, a position so radical that it is shared by the U.S. Treasury Department. But that justification is enough to allow the NRSC to tar the mayor, who is now running for the Senate, as a permissive advocate of open borders who is seemingly eager for every resident of a Mexican barrio to move into the mansions of Newport.
What makes this GOP smear attack so unusual is that the target of this venom, Mayor Steve Laffey, is a Republican. And he is the only Rhode Island Senate candidate who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, supports the Iraq war and believes in the magic elixir of Miracle-Gro tax cuts. Laffey's unforgivable sin in the eyes of the national Republican establishment is that he has an even-money chance of defeating antiwar incumbent GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee in the traditionally low-turnout Sept. 12 party primary.
A recent poll showed that Laffey is ahead of Chafee 51% to 34% less then two weeks before the election. Another poll shows that the Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse, would beat Laffey 55% to 25%. Whitehouse and Chafee were in a statistical dead heat.