A Return To 'Rockefeller Republicans'?

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-RI, pumps his fists before addressing supporters at his election night rally in Providence, RI., Tuesday night Sept. 12, 2006. Chafee defeated republican challenger Stephen Laffey, mayor of Cranston, R.I., in a close race. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
Sen. Lincoln Chaffee won his primary on Tuesday.

Chafee a — and when was the last time you heard this term? — a moderate Republican who has publicly disagreed with President Bush on any number of issues, was in a hard-fought race with a real-live conservative.

Whom did the party back?

Surprise — it backed Chafee, because in left-leaning Rhode Island, Chafee had a better chance of retaining his Senate seat than if the conservative had won. The party basically decided it was better to have a prodigal son in office than no son at all.

What does this bode for the party in the future? With the president's popularity barely registering a pulse, will Republican poll takers suddenly become infatuated with what we used to call "Rockefeller Republicans?"

Pundits will cry "no way." But people like George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani wouldn't be spending all their vacation time in Iowa if they didn't think moderates still had a place in their party

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.
By Harry Smith