Sen. Lincoln Chafee's status as the most liberal Republican in the Senate has put him between a rock and a hard place. To even reach the general election, he must fend off a tough primary challenge from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, whose supporters have attacked Chafee's opposition to some of President Bush's tax cuts and the war in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic former state attorney general, has promised to bring troops home from Iraq and has pointed out that Chafee still usually votes with the GOP. Whitehouse was expecting a bruising primary of his own, but his major rival for the nomination dropped out of the race after a fundraising controversy and falling poll numbers. Chafee may feel the need to move to the right to survive the September primary, but any such move would make it more difficult to defeat Whitehouse in November. Chaffee has walked this tightrope between the two parties before, however, and has earned the backing of the White House and National Republican Senatorial Committee, who say he is the best Republicans can hope for in the very blue Rhode Island.