Former RI Gov. Lincoln Chafee, one-time Republican, declares 2016 Democratic … – Fox News

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee entered the 2016 presidential race Wednesday as a Democrat, casting himself as an anti-war candidate who opposed the invasion of Iraq back when challenger Hillary Clinton supported it.

Chafee, a one-time Republican so moderate — and some say so opportunistic — officially left the GOP in 2007 and was later elected governor of Rhode Island as an Independent.

Chafee joined the Democratic Party two years ago, and has made little effort to set up a competitive campaign operation, beyond a few visits and calls to activists in the early voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

“We must deliberately and carefully extricate ourselves from expensive wars,” Chafee told a half-full law school classroom at George Mason University in northern Virginia. “We need to be very smart in these voluble times overseas.”

He said, “Today I’m formally entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president.”

With his announcement, Chafee became the biggest longshot among Clinton rivals who have a long way to go to avoid becoming historical footnotes in the 2016 campaign.

Longtime Chafee strategists and donors said they know little about his intentions — or even his rationale for running.

“He’s not done anything other than posture on some issues,” said Mike Trainor, a former Chafee aide. “The question he’s going to have to answer is what credible indications can he give that he is at all ready to run a national campaign.”

Clinton has set a goal of raising $100 million for her primary bid. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who entered the race last week, has said he’s already raised at least $4 million. And allies of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have established a super PAC to support his efforts.

All three have begun building robust campaign operations with staff across the country, a step Chafee has yet to take.

In previous campaigns, Chafee has spent significant sums from his family fortune to further his political ambitious, for example dropping $1.8 million on his 2010 governor’s race. Running for president is significantly more expensive than seeking statewide office, with some pegging the estimated cost of a successful 2016 campaign at more than $1 billion.

Unlike the other Democratic challengers, who’ve focused on pocketbook issues, Chafee has staked his campaign on growing international instability. His opposition to Clinton, Chafee said, is driven by the belief that the next president should not be someone who supported the war in Iraq.

Then a Republican, Chafee was the lone GOP senator to vote in 2002 against the invasion.

Clinton, then a New York senator, voted to authorize the war, which became a major issue during her 2008 campaign. Clinton now opposes putting U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq, other than as advisers to the Iraqi forces.

Chafee supported President Barack Obama in both his campaigns. After winning election as governor, Chafee became a Democrat in 2013, but opted against seeking re-election. His approval ratings were low.

So far, his latest political maneuver has attracted little notice.

“No one has contacted him,” his wife, Stephanie Chafee, wrote on Facebook nearly three weeks after he said in April that he would explore a presidential run. “So SAD!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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