The American Spectator blog disputes the wisdom behind Matthew Yglesias’s suggestion that the Republicans would have brighter Senate prospects if they distanced themselves from the war. That strategy didn’t seem to work too well for Lincoln Chafee in 2006. Antiwar House Republicans John Hostettler and Jim Leach also lost their seats.
The Chafee example doesn’t disprove Yglesias’s point, however. What it shows is lone dissenters have a hard time escaping from the downward drag of the party line: Lincoln Chafee did lose in large part because the Republicans were pro-war, even though he wasn’t. As long as the GOP is committed to the war, outlying dissenters risk getting shot by both sides: antiwar voters blame them for their party affiliation, while the party base may reject them for deviating from the Republican line.
Antiwar Republicans fared badly in 2006–but so, of course, did pro-war Republicans. The party as a whole was judged by voters for its support of the war, and found wanting. Yglesias is exactly right: if the Republicans want to start winning again, the party as a whole–and not just the occasional Chafee–is going to have to repudiate the war.