But there is something more elemental, too. "It could be partly a function of personality," says Jennifer Duffy, a Rhode Island native and senior editor for the Cook Political Report who tracks governors. "I'm not sure Chafee has very sharp elbows."
Indeed, the governor seems wired for compromise and an off-the-cuff, undisciplined politics. And while neither tendency represents a fatal flaw — to the contrary, they are central to his image of straight-shooting moderation — both look out of step with the moment.
Chafee suggests that if the economy improves before his re-election bid, the questions about style will melt away. That's not entirely clear. But a dip in the unemployment rate will undoubtedly provide a boost to his political fortunes.
And if the independent winds up in a three- or four-way race again, it won't take an avalanche of good feeling to win another term.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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