When it comes to spurring job creation, Chafee is hoping to take advantage of his state's location between the economic giants of New York and Boston. In particular, he wants to persuade corporate leaders to build their headquarters in Rhode Island because of the state's "ease of travel." During his announcement address, he touted a new train station in Warwick, R.I., which is being linked to T.F. Green Airport. "This unique intermodal development will serve as a national model for connecting air, rail and highway travel," said Chafee.
Chafee also sees vocational education as central to his economic strategy. He is promising to adopt a proposal by Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) which would merge the state's vo-tech high school and community college systems into a unified "Middle College System."
Chafee, who worked as a blacksmith at harness racetracks before entering politics, grew up in the Republican Party: his now deceased father, a World War II veteran, is a former GOP governor and senator.
In his 2008 book, "Against the Tide," Chafee writes that the "great history" of his party belongs to "Rockefeller Republicans" like himself not just to "the newcomers" who changed the GOP into what he calls "the Old Dixie Club."
Although Chafee decided to stick with the Republican Party in 2006 when he faced a tough primary fight from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey and ultimately lost the general election to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, there was no chance that the former senator was going to run for governor on the GOP ticket in 2010.
Chafee thinks the GOP has been captured by the Hard Right and that it has "abandoned" people like himself who are "pro-choice, pro-environment, antiwar, and fiscally responsible."
Asked about former Vice President Dick Cheney telling Politico that Obama is "trying to pretend" that the U.S. is not at war, Chafee said, "The former Vice President has no credibility. He is an individual who is not familiar with telling the truth, particularly with getting us into Iraq."
Chafee, who backed Barack Obama for president in 2008, considered running for governor as a Democrat. He ultimately decided against it, however, because he has been disillusioned with the president's handling of foreign affairs, particularly his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Chafee, who was the lone Republican senator to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq, worries that the U.S. is once again "slipping deeper and deeper into another quagmire."
"It just baffles me," said Chafee, referring to Obama's Afghanistan decision. "Sometimes, it is smarter to turn off the war machine. I don't understand why this president has taken that course. Certainly, that was a big part of his appeal in the election in 2008."