"When I ran for reelection as the mayor of Cranston, there was an independent candidate running whose only claim to fame was that he wanted to keep a thirty-five-foot inflatable gorilla in his backyard. He was endearingly referred to as Gorilla Man. I never thought to say, 'Why is Gorilla Man running? 'When the debates were scheduled, I showed up and debated him along with the Democratic candidate. I never said, 'I won't debate Gorilla Man.' I never thought he couldn't run. This is America....
The fascinating thing about the whole experience was how pathetic the Republican establishment seemed. After all, they were supposed to be the ones in charge. Who was I? I was just the mayor of a midsize city in the country's smallest state, with only four years of political office under my belt I was the David to their Goliath, the 1998 U.S. Olympic hockey team to then Soviet Union machine.
Following my conversations with the aforementioned folks, I began to wonder: Is this what happens at the national level? Does power trump ideology and principle? "Of all the conversations I had with [the GOP establishment] not one involved a discussion about what I could offer them as a U.S. senator. They never talked about tax cuts, the war on terror, or spending cuts. These conversations were designed to convince me not to run. If anything, they had the opposite effect...."
In this passionate but meandering political memoir, the author reconstructs his failed 2006 bid to unseat then incumbent Lincoln Chaffee for the Republican nomination in the Rhode Island Senate race. Positioning himself as a political underdog fighting against the power-hungry Republican leadership, Laffey accuses the National Republican Senatorial Committee of an unprecedented negative campaign against him in favor of his more moderate opponent. The author holds a number of key Republicans responsible for his defeat, including John McCain, President Bush and especially NRSC chairwoman Elizabeth Dole, who he believes chose power over principle by supporting Chaffee in the primary. The text alternates between colorful anecdotes about the campaign and vitriolic attacks on his adversaries. Laffey's candid, sometimes playful tone is both charming and abrasive: when he talks about campaigning with his family, he strikes an appealingly human note, but when he imagines conversations between Washington insiders, he seems desperate to dramatize a conspiracy about which he can only speculate. The text ends with a "prescription for the future" in which Laffey calls on the Republican party to return to the conservative ideals articulated by Ronald Reagan. This overly brief postscript is the closest the book comes to offering the "primer for the Republican party of the future" that Laffey promises.