- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Republicans need to gain one seat to regain control of the Senate, but some Republicans, fearing another defection like the one by Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont in 2001, say they must gain two seats to assure control.
The party-jumping speculation centers on Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Republican, who Republicans worry might follow Mr. Jeffords' lead if Republicans regain control by holding 50 seats and Vice President Richard B. Cheney's tie-breaking Senate vote after the Nov. 5 elections.
"Republicans will be waking up the day after the election on Chafee watch," said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist.
The Chafee question has been debated in Republican circles for some time. One side, including Mr. Reed, holds that Republicans have done enough to keep maverick members happy since Mr. Jeffords' shift.
"Obviously, Republicans are all still living in the nightmare of the Jeffords move and how that disrupted everything, including losing the agenda," Mr. Reed said. "Chafee, while he is a New England liberal Republican, has strong beliefs and has been listened to by leadership considerably since the Jeffords move."
Some Republicans also argue that Democrats were able to reward Mr. Jeffords in 2001 with a committee chairmanship but don't have anything to offer Mr. Chafee.
"The truth of the matter is there's no place to put someone who switched parties; their committee chairs are all full, and they're generally filled by guys who won't give them up to a party-switcher," said Michael McKenna, a Republican pollster.
But the other side of the debate holds that if Republicans gain one seat, the pressure on Mr. Chafee to change parties will be too much, and Democrats, faced with the loss of the majority, will find something to offer him.
"If it's tied, I would bet he'll probably go," said David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union. "They'll find something [to entice him], and he will find a way to justify it."
Still, all sides agree that the motivation for a defection goes away if Republicans don't gain control, or if they gain two seats.
Mr. Chafee isn't the only name mentioned. Some Republicans also worry that Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, would consider jumping. On the other side, Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, has said he isn't thinking of changing, but Republicans say he may think differently if fellow Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, a Democrat, and Georgia's incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes were to lose their re-election bids.
On Fox News Sunday this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said that he thought it was possible Mr. Chafee would switch parties, but that it's not possible Mr. Miller would.
Mr. Chafee has raised the possibility of switching in the past, though in the past week he has told several news outlets that he doesn't foresee a change.
"You don't want to say 'never,' but I can't foresee a scenario," Mr. Chafee told the Wall Street Journal.
Republicans, though, say the world may look very different after the elections and that the media pressure will be intense if Republicans have a one-seat margin and defection means a change in party control.
"I think that would be true for any potential defection to the Democratic Party," said Morton Blackwell, a Republican National Committee member from Virginia. "There's a certain attractiveness to doing that which would not happen if it did not result in a party switch."
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and other Republican leaders have taken steps since the Jeffords switch to pay more attention to maverick Republicans, including giving a seat at leadership meetings to Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican. Mr. Lott and the White House have also made a strong effort to treat Mr. Chafee well during the recent negotiations on a homeland security bill.
"We make an effort to reach out to all of our senators from whatever philosophy, whatever region or gender. And we are going to continue to do that," Mr. Lott said.
Other Republicans also hold the same line. "I don't think we're going to have a defection," said Assistant Minority Leader Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican.

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