The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RIOctober 20th, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
1. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog ran an article on Rhode Island politics this week as part of its Presidential Geography series, and it’s a great read – a good summation of the state’s electoral map. It also gives me another opportunity to bring up Silver’s finding that Rhode Island’s voters are the most elastic in the country. The state is 49% independents, 41% Democrats and 10% Republicans; there is always a path to victory for a statewide candidate who wins over most of the independents, plus some Democrats and Republicans. But it also points to a key problem for Republicans – only one in 10 Rhode Island voters are in the GOP, yet the party’s candidates are almost certainly going to come from that tiny bloc. Will such a candidate hold views and policy positions in step with many of the 90% of Rhode Island voters who are non-Republicans? Or will the party elevate true believers whose views don’t resonate much beyond the GOP faithful?
2. A postseason tip of the cap to my friend Tim Britton, the pride of New Jersey and now The Providence Journal’s young dynamo of a sportswriter. Tim’s epic A Series Matter features were by far my favorite way to track this year’s sad spectacle of a Sox season, and The Journal made a smart move by keeping his writing (along with the rest of the sports section) outside its paywall. Read his comprehensive guide to the off-season and you’ll be hooked. Also, yesterday was his birthday, so this will count as my card.
3. There were few fireworks between David Cicilline and Brendan Doherty during our WPRI 12 debate on Tuesday night, which means the general dynamic of the race probably hasn’t changed – Cicilline has an edge but Doherty is close enough to win and has enough money to compete. RIPR’s Scott MacKay weighed in Friday with a typically smart take on the state of play. “For Doherty, the battle is to get Obama voters to split their tickets,” he wrote. “The former state police superintendent must harvest votes among Roman Catholic voters in the Blackstone Valley and East Bay suburbs who are socially conservative and believe Cicilline has drifted too far left.” Cicilline has done a good job so far tying Doherty to Mitt Romney, a tactic Doherty tried to counter – at times effectively – during the debate. “Doherty has run the best Republican campaign in this district since Dr. Kevin Vigilante,” MacKay said – but then again, Vigilante lost.
4. Speaking of Vigilante, did you know he’s now in Maryland as a senior vice president at the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton?
5. One savvy local operative thinks Central Falls Sen. Elizabeth Crowley’s endorsement of James Diossa for mayor is a “big deal,” comparing it with Myrth York’s endorsement of Angel Taveras in Providence two years ago. Between Crowley’s seal of approval, Rep. Gus Silva’s endorsement and a huge financial advantage, Diossa should have no problem getting out of the first-round election on Nov. 6. The question then is which of Diossa’s four opponents will move on to face him in the Dec. 11 runoff: Thomas Lazieh, Joseph Moran, Bruce Corrigan or Tia Ristaino-Siegel. They’ll square off at a Nov. 4 candidates forum sponsored by Common Cause Rhode Island, Leadership Rhode Island and Progreso Latino, with yours truly moderating.
6. Good insight from Luigi Zingales in National Affairs: “Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition.”
7. When it comes to U.S. House races, 1988 now looks like a watershed year in state politics. That was the last time Rhode Island voters elected a woman to Congress (Claudine Schneider) and the last time they booted an incumbent (Fernand St Germain), an insight I bring you via a new FairVote study of Rhode Island’s newly redrawn congressional districts [pdf]. “Rhode Island voters continue to be underrepresented,” FairVote asserts. “In 2010, Republican candidates for the House received 38% of the vote, but zero seats in the House – just as they have in every election since 1994.” Contrariwise, Democrats won 100% of the House seats with only 55% of the vote. FairVote thinks Rhode Island should merge its two districts into a single “super-district” that would likely elect one Democratic congressman and one Republican congressman. Of course all this will be moot come 2022, when we can look forward to an epic Cicilline-Langevin race.
8. High-profile Obama flack Stephanie Cutter is a native of Raynham, Mass., proving again that politics is one of this region’s top export sectors. A wise reader reports Cutter has a counterpart on the other side of the aisle: Sean Spicer, a Barrington native who’s now the Republican National Committee’s communications director. The tell is Spicer’s Twitter profile, where he admits to being a “wicked big Sox/Pats fan.”
9. The launch of Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s new financial empowerment initiative – Empower RI – was overshadowed by campaign politics, but it’s worth taking a spin through the PowerPoint [pdf] she put together. The treasurer’s most striking stat shows the growth of the payday loan industry in Rhode Island – the number of payday loans taken out annually nearly doubled during the recession, from 96,000 in 2008 to 183,000 to 2011. No wonder the industry lobbies so vociferously against changes – their business model is booming.
10. I had a great time visiting a few different organizations this week. Thank you to the Providence Rotary Club, whose members asked a variety of thoughtful questions about this year’s bond questions; Rhode Island College’s American Democracy Project, which hosted a forum on Rhode Island talk radio; and Providence Monthly, which hosted a great reporter roundtable for next month’s cover story that will feature Tim White, Ian Donnis, Dan McGowan, Erika Niedowski, Dave Scharfenberg and Projo editor Tim Murphy debating the future of Rhode Island’s news media.
11. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – a House District 4 debate between Democratic Speaker Gordon Fox and independent challenger Mark Binder. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Leslie Taito of the R.I. Office of Regulatory Reform and Teespring’s Walker Williams. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or 6 a.m. on Fox).
12. Finally, I’ve got to close this week’s column by paying tribute to my boss Jay Howell, who’s moving on up after 11 years as president and general manager of WPRI 12 to become vice president of regional television at our Providence-based parent company, LIN Media. Under Jay’s leadership, WPRI went from the scrappy No. 2 of the Providence-New Bedford market to the local leader in television news. He had the wisdom and fortitude to protect and eventually expand the station’s core reporting amid the toughest economic times since the 1930s. On top of that, I owe Jay a very deep, personal debt of gratitude: He literally created this job for me out of thin air, giving a 26-year-old the chance to experiment and learn while getting paid to do the only work I’ve ever really wanted to do. All the while he’s been as encouraging as a teacher or even a parent – not to mention a total news junkie who constantly peppers Tim White and me with emails and links to the stories of the day. He’s the kind of guy you’d follow into battle, and we’re going to miss him a ton (even though he won’t be far away at LIN’s downtown headquarters). … Congratulations also are in order for WPRI’s departing news director Joe Abouzeid, who’s been promoted to GM of our Ohio sister station; general sales manager Patrick Wholey, who’s taking over for Jay as GM of WPRI; and assistant news director Karen Rezendes, who’ll lead the newsroom while we find Joe’s successor. WPRI is a great place to work, and all four of them are a big reason why.
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