PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Less than 24 hours after his widely panned performance in the first Democratic presidential debate, former Gov. Lincoln Chafee returned to CNN to make clear he has no plans to end his low-polling campaign.
During a Wednesday afternoon interview, anchor Wolf Blitzer repeatedly pressed Chafee on why he was continuing to run in light of how poorly he was received at Tuesday’s debate, citing the risk that the former U.S. senator will “wind up looking silly if you keep going like this.”
But Chafee wasn’t having it. “I’m in it as far as I can continue to raise these issues, because they’re important and I feel strongly about that,” he said.
The issues he was referring to are foreign affairs, specifically the original decision to invade Iraq in 2002 and the continued chaos in the Middle East of recent years. Chafee complained to Blitzer that he was only given about nine minutes of speaking time during the two-hour debate, and suggested it was an effort to muzzle his views.
“I was certainly not pleased with the amount of time allocated,” Chafee said. He suggested his campaign is struggling in part because he has rarely been invited to appear on the Sunday morning political talk shows. “The establishment does not want antiwar views,” he said.
“That certainly was a lesson last night – to appear there and only get nine minutes out of two hours,” Chafee said. “It reaffirmed what I thought when I got into the race, that the establishment does not want to hear an antiwar voice, and that motivates me even more to continue this campaign.”
Blitzer suggested that surging second-place candidate Bernie Sanders is also an antiwar voice, but Chafee contested the idea, saying the Vermont senator only discusses foreign affairs “fleetingly.”
Chafee acknowledged his campaign has only raised about $30,000 – compared with tens of millions for Hillary Clinton and Sanders – but said he always expected he would have limited resources and is sticking to his budget. He said he’s made more than 30 visits to New Hampshire since announcing and plans to speak at the state Democratic Party’s upcoming Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
“You know you can’t really run a successful campaign in … the first four states with a limited amount of money like that,” Blitzer countered. “You have no chance with a limited amount of money like that.”
“I want to be a voice for prosperity through peace,” Chafee said. “I’m going to be talking about bringing different combatants to the table.”
The bruising interview with Blitzer followed a similarly awkward post-debate interview Chafee gave to Fox News host Sean Hannity where the candidate struggled to articulate the details of his tax plan.
Yet Chafee’s comments to Blitzer only reinforce the view among many Rhode Island observers that the famously stubborn former Republican may not give up his quest for the White House anytime soon, particularly if he can snare an invitation to the next debate, which will be on CBS News in November.
Chafee, 62, may see himself as having little to lose by remaining in the race – he is independently wealthy and therefore doesn’t need to work, and his non-presidential political prospects look dim considering the low approval ratings that dogged him during his single term as governor.
But that hasn’t stopped people from scratching their heads about it.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse – the Democrat who defeated then-Republican Chafee in 2006, and a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter – told The Associated Press after the debate that he can’t figure out why Chafee is running, arguing his former rival has “zero chance” of winning.
But Whitehouse stopped short of saying Chafee should drop out.Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi