Whitehouse, 51, prevailed after a tooth-and-nail campaign that drew national attention, as well as prominent politicians such as former President Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to speak on his behalf. The campaign was the most expensive in Rhode Island history.
Whitehouse’s team throughout the race linked Chafee to the Bush administration, despite the fact that Chafee was the only Republican senator to vote against the war in Iraq. He was also a staunch environmentalist and a supporter of gay marriage and abortion.
Whitehouse painted Chafee as an ineffective congressional leader. “Chafee’s self-styled independence from the national Republican Party is mostly posturing,” said Whitehouse, according to the Providence Journal. “While Chafee was the only GOP senator to vote against the Iraq war, he didn’t persuade any other Republicans to follow.”
Despite Chafee’s independent streak, the national party rallied behind him, seeing him as the only way to hold a seat in one of the most Democrat states in the nation, where 11 percent of voters are registered as Republicans.
In the 2004 presidential election, Rhode Island voters gave Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a 20 percent margin of victory over President Bush. And it was one of only six states that did not vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Whitehouse, the son of a former U.S. ambassador, wants to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq in a reasonable time frame, he has said. He also said he supports low-cost and accessible health care.
The Providence Journal reported that Whitehouse has proposed increasing Social Security taxes if necessary. He also reportedly wants to raise the minimum wage and cut taxes for the middle-class, rather than the wealthy.
Elected in 2000, Chafee will surrender the seat that he and his father had held for 30 years.