A pair of New Jersey political operatives now holding senior positions at the Republican National Committee can rightfully claim a great deal of credit for U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee’s victory in the Rhode Island Republican primary yesterday. It was the voter turnout operation of RNC Political Director Michael DuHaime and Bill Stepien, who runs the 72-Hour Campaign operation, that helped Chafee — who trailed conservative Stephen Laffey, the Mayor of Cranston, 34%-51% in a recent poll — secure a solid victory in a record turnout primary. Hotline Editor Chuck Todd said last night that the “RNC 72-hour program has once again surpassed expecations.” DuHaime joined the RNC in 2004 after serving as Regional Political Director for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign. He served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, as Deputy Campaign Manager of Bob Franks’ 2000 U.S. Senate bid, and as Campaign Manager for Anthony Bucco’s successful State Senate campaign in 1997. Bucco’s defeat of Gordon MacInnes nine years ago was the last time an incumbent Democratic Senator lost re-election. (DuHaime’s hometown is Hoboken, which has become the political capital of New Jersey; Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Bob Menendez and Senate Majority Leader/Hudson County Democratic Chairman Bernard Kenny all live there.) Stepien spent the last week on the ground in Rhode Island, as he did earlier this year in a special election for Congress in California’s 50th district, where the 72-Hour campaign was credited with the win in a nationally important House race. He started out in politics working on Bucco’s ’97 campaign, worked as Franks’s driver in the 2000 Senate race, managed Bill Baroni’s 2003 campaign that unseated incumbent Gary Guear, and served as Field Director of the Bush/Cheney campaign in New Hampshire in 2004.