New: Chafee-Obama bond forged at gym (Feb. 22)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - President Obama on Wednesday named independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee a national co-chair of his re-election campaign.
The two have been political allies since 2008, when the former Republican U.S. senator endorsed his one-time colleague from Illinois for the presidency, even though Obama’s eventual opponent John McCain had campaigned for Chafee in 2006. Chafee has made multiple visits to the White House since Obama took office.
In 2010, Obama quietly gave Chafee’s gubernatorial campaign a boost by staying neutral in the race between him and Democrat Frank Caprio, which famously led Caprio to say the president could take his endorsement and “shove it.” Md. Gov. Martin O’Malley has since suggested Chafee should join the Democratic Party.
Chafee is one of 35 Obama campaign co-chairs, a list that also includes Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and two of the president’s former chiefs of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley. Another co-chair with local ties is Attleboro native Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the co-chairs “will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history.” Obama won 63% of the vote in Rhode Island against McCain in 2008, with only Hawaii and Vermont delivering him a bigger landslide.
But Chafee’s endorsement didn’t do Obama much good in Rhode Island’s March 2008 Democratic primary, in which the future president got creamed by Hillary Clinton, who took 58.4% of the vote to Obama’s 40.4%. This year’s presidential primary in Rhode Island will take place on April 24.
In yet another twist, Chafee’s Democratic opponent in 2006, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, backed Clinton over Obama in the presidential primary. Obama had come to Rhode Island and campaigned for Whitehouse in his successful bid to unseat Chafee.
Last year, Chafee told WPRI.com he was undecided about whether to endorse Obama again. “The wars are my only hesitation,” Chafee said, referring
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