Lincoln Chafee Just Dropped Out of the Presidential Race

He formally withdrew at the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum Friday morning.

Lincoln Chafee at the first Democratic debate in Las Vegas earlier this month.
AP Photo/John Locher
Oct. 23, 2015, 8:30 a.m.

Lincoln Chafee on Friday became the second candidate of the week to drop out of the Democratic field for 2016, leaving just three main contenders for the Democratic primary race.

Just two days after Jim Webb left the pack—with an independent run still possible—Chafee announced his full withdrawal from the race at the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum Friday morning.

“As you may know, I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace,” Chafee said. “But after much thought, I have decided to end my campaign for the president today.”

Chafee never made a big mark on the Democratic field despite his long résumé. He served as a mayor, a senator, and the governor of Rhode Island. He began his political career as a Republican, became an independent in 2007, and then joined the Democratic Party in 2013. As he said at the Democratic primary debate: “The party left me. …. There was no room for a liberal moderate Republican in that party.”

Chafee based much of his campaign on criticizing Hillary Clinton’s Senate vote in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq and was known more for his sunny disposition—and his unique political position in favor of converting the United States to the metric system—than his leadership prowess.

Chafee addressed his war-averse platform in his speech, beginning with a reference to an ancient Greek play, Lysistrata, in which a group of women withheld their “favors” from their “war-mongering” husbands until peace could be restored.

“And it worked!” Chafee said.

He criticized the Republican field for what he perceives as their disinterest in “understanding” North Africa and the Middle East.

“Instead, they prefer to espouse bellicosity, more saber-rattling, and more blind macho posturing,” Chafee said. “When I hear all their tough talk I have déjà vu about the ‘evil’ Viet Cong. We should be different. Democrats should insist on learning from the lessons of Vietnam.”

He advocated for a more gentle United States.

“Do we want to be remembered as a bomber of weddings and hospitals?” Chafee said. “Or do we want to be remembered as peacemakers, as pioneers of a more harmonious world?”

Not everyone was so thrilled by his point of view. Chafee struggled to fundraise since his presidential announcement in June. Only 10 people contributed enough money to Chafee’s campaign to merit an itemized listing in his third-quarter Federal Election Commission report. Among those 10, some unitemized donors, and a $4,100 contribution Chafee made to his own campaign, he took in just $15,000, an amount NPR called “downright embarrassing” for a presidential candidate.

Chafee began his remarks pledging “all my energy” to the Democratic Party in 2016, suggesting that he’d completely closed the door on making an independent run, unlike Webb. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who took the stage after Chafee’s announcement, was grateful for his guarantee, calling him a “class act” and thanking him for his “remarkable public service.”  

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