Before Lincoln Chafee was a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, he was a Republican U.S. senator and an independent governor of Rhode Island. But Chafee insists he isn't different.
"I haven't changed but my old party changed," Chafee told the Washington Examiner. "They now have more of an emphasis on social issues and less on fiscal responsibility."
While still a GOP senator, he did not vote to re-elect George W. Bush as president in 2004. After his losing a re-election bid in 2006, he became an independent and served one term as governor. Then, after co-chairing Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, Chafee switched over to the Democratic Party in 2013. But he's always been liberal.
He supports gun control, same-sex marriage and legal abortion. Chafee voted against the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq war. But the Democratic Party of 2015 is a place where Hillary Clinton faces pressure from her left and even Bernie Sanders or Martin O'Malley can get heckled at a progressive conference.
One Beltway Democrat told the Examiner, any politician who changes affiliations that much "has a little wandering in him."
Chafee argued his "record of accomplishments, my high ethical standards and my vision of prosperity through peace is a good fit with the Democratic Party" of today. He also said Bernie Sanders' recent momentum shows Democrats want a choice in 2016.
In a Monmouth University poll released on Wednesday, Chafee received 0 percent of the vote, with no supporters at all. Since announcing his campaign on June 3, the candidate raised $29,049.03 — less than Jeb Bush raised per hour during the same time period. But the financial reports show Chafee betting on himself, giving $363,000 to his campaign.
Chafee also seems to be doing relatively little to build his support. He only took six of his 15 allotted minutes to speak at the Iowa Democratic Dinner last week. While the other candidates spent three days campaigning non-stop, he spent three days in Iowa, only to hold one public event prior to the dinner. His staff said he spent the rest of the time taping media interviews in Des Moines.
"I honestly don't know why he is running. He was always a mistaken Republican because he was far too liberal for the Republican party," said the Washington Democrat, who added he knows "not a soul" supporting either Chafee or Jim Webb for president.
"It's July and there is still a long way to go until the votes are cast in the first 2016 primaries," said Chafee communications director Debbie Rich. "A lot is going to happen between now and then. The goal is to stay in the race, meeting voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, and talking about the issues."