Chafee, for be­ing the Democrats’ weak­est Linc ‘I

By Chris Cil­lizza

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Have a can­di­date for the Worst Week in Wash­ing­ton? E-mail Chris Cil­lizza at chris.cil­lizza@wash­post.com.

have been a block of gran­ite,” Lin­coln Chafee in­sisted Tues­day night in his open­ing re­marks at the first Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial de­bate in Las Ve­gas. His per­for­mance over the next 2 1/ 2 hours proved he was any­thing but.

The former Rhode Is­land gover­nor and sen­a­tor came into the de­bate with ex­tremely low ex­pec­ta­tions — the re­sult of his show­ing of less than 1 per­cent in most state and na­tional polls — and man­aged to un­der­per­form even those.

His worst mo­ment — and one of the worst mo­ments I have ever wit­nessed in a de­bate — came when CNN mod­er­a­tor An­der­son Cooper asked Chafee to de­fend his 1999 vote for leg­is­la­tion that loos­ened reg­u­la­tions on big banks and fol­lowed up to ask whether he’d re­ally known what he was vot­ing for.

“I’d just ar­rived at the Sen­ate,” Chafee ap­peared to con­cede. “My dad had died. I’d been ap­pointed by the gover­nor. It was the first vote, and it was 90-5.”

But Chafee wasn’t done! Asked about his vote in sup­port of the USA Pa­triot Act, he came up with this doozy of an ex­pla­na­tion: “That was an­other 99-to-1 vote.” One thing we do know for sure: If ev­ery­one jumped off a bridge, Chafee would, too.

No, Chafee wasn’t win­ning the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion be­fore this de­bate, and he isn’t win­ning it af­ter­ward. But long-shot can­di­dates can still help or harm them­selves based on how they per­form when the bright lights come on. Chafee hurt him­self, badly.

Lin­coln Chafee, for crum­bling un­der pres­sure, you had the Worst Week in Wash­ing­ton. Con­grats, or some­thing.

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