The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RISeptember 1st, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
Welcome to another edition of my weekend column – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to email@example.com.
1. If you did a poll of Rhode Island Democratic Party insiders, support for David Cicilline in the upcoming primary would likely top 90%. Just about everybody you can think of is with him – Reed, Whitehouse, Langevin, Raimondo, Roberts, Taveras, Fox, Paiva Weed and on and on. By contrast, our new WPRI 12 poll shows less than 50% of Democratic primary voters are planning to vote for Cicilline right now. Our hypothetical poll of party insiders also would probably find near-unanimous agreement that Anthony Gemma is a strange, outside-the-mainstream candidate – yet our actual poll shows him with the support of nearly one-third of primary voters. If nothing else, that’s a reminder of the frequent divides between party elites and the actual electorate that votes for them.
2. I already mentioned this in March, but the generation gap in the Cicilline race continues to intrigue me. Among voters under 40, Cicilline’s approval rating is up to 47% – and while their support for him in the primary has slipped from 56% to 49%, that’s still six points higher than the 42% he’s receiving from both middle-aged voters and those 60 and older. (The gap was double-digits in May.) I think it has to do with the damage the Bush years did to the Republican brand among younger Americans and their generally lower awareness of current events, but I’m open to other suggestions.
3. Tuesday night’s Cicilline-Gemma throwdown was my first experience in one of our big prime-time debates, which had me nervous enough – but what really rattled me was the crowd. And while it wasn’t Tim White’s first time moderating, it was his first time anchoring – and he says the auditorium’s insanity made his job more complicated: “After the closing statements, the volume of the crowd was so loud that it was impossible to hear the producer in my ear giving me the countdown to the end of the show. (Keep in mind, we have to nail the end of the debate to the second, so there’s someone in the control room – which in this case is a truck sitting outside the theater – timing the show and letting me know how much time we have left.) The last time-cue I heard was ‘one minute left in show,’ and that was it. I knew viewers watching at home could hear what I was saying, but the crowd was full volume and drowning out the sound coming through the tiny earpiece – my lifeline to my producer. So I guessed. But it worked out, proving luck is better than smarts any day.” (I checked – he nailed it.)
4. This is my second campaign season since I started covering politics for WPRI, and I’ve been heartened to see how much interest there is in the races from regular voters as well as political junkies. We’ve gotten great feedback about our Newsmakers General Assembly debates and the ratings for Tuesday’s debate were stellar, with more than 60,000 TV households watching. On a more local level, I’m moderating a legislative candidates forum Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Central Falls High School – come by and hear them out.
5. The Democratic primary in Senate District 3 on Providence’s East Side is an interesting race. Gayle Goldin is more than just the endorsed Democrat – she was covertly handpicked by retiring state Sen. Rhoda Perry in classic Rhode Island fashion, which Barry Fain reports has “cast a shadow” over Goldin’s candidacy. Her opponent is Maryellen Butke, a liberal on most issues who’s angered teachers unions by advocating K-12 policies along Gates Foundation lines. Both women have plenty of cash, and Goldin has the full support of the East Side political machine – as well as a crucial endorsement from Mayor Angel Taveras, who remains appreciative of her early support for his 2010 campaign. Butke got the better of Goldin at a well-attended Books on the Square forum last month, but Goldin remains the favorite – though Butke can’t be counted out in light of lingering resentment about Perry’s ham-handed handoff and her own energetic campaigning.
6. Speaking of the General Assembly, I’m surprised how many vulnerable incumbents don’t have campaign websites in an age when a Google search could be the average voter’s first stop to research a candidate. Exhibit A: Michael McCaffrey. Exhibit B: Peter Petrarca. Exhibit C: Paul Jabour. Their main opponents all have sites, and so do other endangered incumbents like Dan DaPonte. Another example of the Assembly’s aversion to technology? Or just a continued bet on old-school campaigning?
8. Mark Zaccaria and Allan Fung weren’t the only Rhode Islanders who stood out at the Republican National Convention. State delegate Barbara Ann Fenton of Newport made a “shocking suggestion” that the platform should be changed to eliminate civil marriage for straight Americans as well as gay ones. (Another Republican, North Kingstown Sen. Dawson Hodgson, has suggested that at the state level.) And that wasn’t all: Fenton, 31, also voted against the abortion plank of the GOP platform.
9. Congratulations to East Providence’s own Danny Chapman, RI.gov’s talented Web designer, who’s been selected by the White House for its first class of Presidential Innovation Fellows. Dan – one of just 18 fellows chosen from a pool of more than 800 – will be working on an initiative called MyGov that will look for digital ways of connecting citizens with the federal government. Chapman says the experience has been “amazing” so far, and suggests people follow the project’s blog and Twitter feed.
10. A group of graduate students from Virginia traveled to Rhode Island earlier this year to learn, well, how to avoid becoming like Rhode Island – or at least its struggling cities. Bond Buyer reports the crew from George Mason U. met in Central Falls with Robert Flanders, and asked him what an essential service is for a municipality in Rhode Island. “Pensions are not,” he replied. “If someone dials 911, a pension doesn’t respond.” The result of their project is a 22-page document called the “Financial Crisis Toolkit for Municipalities: Distress without Default” – here’s the PDF.
11. This week on Newsmakers – a political roundtable on the 1st Congressional District campaign with Joe Fleming and Scott MacKay joining Arlene Violet, Tim and me. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – a Labor Day roundtable on the future of organized labor in Rhode Island with Scott Duhamel, Patrick Quinn, Jenna Karlin and Josie Shagwert. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or 6 a.m. on Fox).
12. See you back here next Saturday morning. Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend!
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