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Parties See Chafee As Potential Winner

This fall and in 2010, third-party candidates are poised to play spoiler in some gubernatorial elections. A new survey from Public Policy Polling finds that Independent Chris Daggett could have an impact on the final result in New Jersey, although it's unclear whether he hurts Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine or Republican challenger Chris Christie more.

Last week, Massachusetts Treasurer Tim Cahill also announced his independent candidacy for governor in that state. A former Democrat, his entrance adds to Gov. Deval Patrick's political vulnerability, reflected in Patrick's bottom-scraping approval rating of 20%.

But there is one independent candidate both parties point to as not just a spoiler, but as a potential winner: Lincoln Chafee, the former Republican senator seeking the governor's office in Rhode Island. "In the world of who is real and serious and credible, it's Chafee," Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, said Wednesday at an event previewing 2010 races sponsored by The Hotline. "In general, [independent candidates] are low-impact. In Rhode Island, that's a very high impact."

Added Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, Chafee is "who we see as the general election competition."

Rhode Island is similar to some of its neighbors in that it's a heavily Democratic state that has a propensity for electing Republican governors. But current GOP Gov. Don Carcieri is term-limited, and no major Republican has emerged yet in the race to succeed him. Mr. Chafee was one of six Republican senators to lose in the pivotal 2006 elections. After his defeat, he switched party affiliation to independent and endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president. His high name-identification and crossover appeal in the nation's smallest state make an uncertain open-seat race that much more unpredictable for the national parties.