The Saturday Morning Post: Quick hits on politics & more in RINovember 10th, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site, The Saturday Morning Post
1. David Cicilline is one of the best politicians Rhode Island has ever produced. While he has a natural advantage as a Democrat in a strongly Democratic state, the self-inflicted wounds from his years as mayor have obscured just how much success the soon-to-be-second-term congressman has had over the last three years. Cicilline won three of his four congressional elections by a double-digit margin (two primaries, one general) and even managed a six-point victory amid the historic Republican tidal wave of 2010. Two of those wins came after his job approval rating touched a low of 15%. He’s also shrewdly effective inside his party, managing to scare off potential primary challengers last year and then using the one who emerged – Anthony Gemma – to his advantage. “I’ve never in my entire life seen a candidate work as hard as he has,” Nicole Kayner, who ran Cicilline’s communications operation in the last two elections, marveled to me after Tuesday’s results came in. The result: the congressional seat Cicilline craved is now his for the foreseeable future. But Kayner thinks many of Cicilline’s opponents miss the key reason for his success – he actually believes in the Democratic policy agenda he trumpets so faithfully and frequently. “He’s a policy wonk who’s also great on the stump – you don’t get that a lot,” she said. “It always makes me laugh when we get the critique that he’s too on-message. He says the same things over and over because that’s what he actually thinks.” After the last few years, Cicilline won’t be underestimated again.
2. Rhode Island Republicans struggling to find any silver lining in Tuesday’s election results can take some solace in the fact that a governor’s race against a weak incumbent is approaching in 2014, and their party has historically performed well in gubernatorial contests. In fact, an endorsed non-incumbent Democratic Party candidate for governor hasn’t won the primary and the job since Joe Garrahy back in 1976. (Bruce Sundlun wasn’t endorsed.) And unlike John Robitaille, who was basically running for Don Carcieri’s third term in 2010, the GOP candidate will be able to place full responsibility for the state’s situation on the Democratic Party in 2014. Granted, there’s little sign the Almond-Carcieri years did much good for the rest of the state GOP – but the governor’s office alone would be better than nothing.
3. “With Elizabeth Warren’s victory in Massachusetts, Rhode Island now is the lone state in New England never to have elected a woman U.S. senator or governor,” M. Charles Bakst points out via email. “As a matter of fact, New Hampshire has two women senators, as does Maine (although Maine is about to change). Vermont and Connecticut have had women governors. Indeed, Massachusetts also had a woman governor (Jane Swift) but of course she was not elected.” Could Rhode Island change that in 2014?
4. You don’t want to miss our new Target 12 investigation Tuesday night at 11. That’s all I can tell you for now.
5. WPRO’s Dan Yorke made a number of good points Thursday reacting to Michael Riley’s concession speech. As Yorke pointed out, popping up out of nowhere to run for Congress against an entrenched incumbent from the dominant party is always going to present a challenge. I’d add that self-funded candidates often lose, and one of the reasons is that fundraising serves a purpose beyond harvesting cash: it helps a candidate build a network of engaged supporters who are invested – literally and figuratively – in the campaign. Think about Rhode Island’s two most prominent self-funders this cycle: Riley, who poured $855,200 of his own money into his race, and Anthony Gemma, who lost $436,404 on his. In both cases, a lack of donations presaged a lack of votes. As the Center for Responsive Politics’ Bob Biersack told The Times: “Money is a necessary condition for electoral success. But it’s not sufficient, and it’s never been.”
6. Tuesday’s election was a good night for Brown University graduates. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (Class of ’82) won a second term with more than 70% support. Maggie Hassan ’80 was elected governor of New Hampshire. With Romney’s loss, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ’92 was immediately put forward as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016. And in the university’s own congressional district, alumnus David Cicilline ’83 won re-election.
7. On first glance, the October WPRI 12 poll looks like dismal news for Lincoln Chafee: only 18% of the electorate will definitely vote for him in two years, half the 36% he won in 2018. But there’s another way to read the poll that doesn’t look quite as grim for the first-term independent. The poll shows 42% will definitely vote against Chafee in 2014, but 33% say they’re open to another candidate yet haven’t closed the door on Chafee, and 8% of voters aren’t sure at all. Viewed that way, 59% of Rhode Island voters haven’t ruled out giving Chafee a second term.
8. MTV of all places reported Monday that the Walt Disney Co. is in talks to buy Pawtucket-based Hasbro, an idea that was quickly shot down by CNBC’s David Faber. Asked for comment, Hasbro spokesman Wayne Charness told me: “There is always rumor and speculation and Hasbro does not comment on it.”
9. Mark Binder lost to House Speaker Gordon Fox and Fox’s enemy Rep. Spencer Dickinson probably won’t have a lot of pull during the next session, but that doesn’t mean their cooperative campaigns don’t have any interesting ideas for the new year. Dickinson proposed and Binder supported banning state lawmakers from holding fundraisers during the legislative session, as current practice allows and arguably encourages. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see some legitimate lobbyists showing up to testify in favor of this,” Dickinson said. The dormant Citizens for an Accountable Legislature coalition proposed the same thing two years ago, and SEIU Local 1199′s members voted to stop giving donations during the session. But other unions scoffed when SEIU tried to get the entire AFL-CIO to follow suit in 2010, and some lawmakers think such a change would be unconstitutional – a legal assertion that seems questionable at best, and deserves scrutiny.
10. The Providence Journal lost three great photographers on Wednesday: Connie Grosch, John Freidah and Ruben W. Perez. Among the three I know the most about Connie and her work, and like the rest of Rhode Island’s political press corps I consider her one of the best in the business – read the many Twitter tributes to Connie and you’ll understand what I mean. Other magazines or newspapers should scoop the three up fast, because talent like that won’t stay on the job market for long.
11. Two good talks coming up this week. My colleague Tim White will join the Projo’s Mike Stanton and The Boston Globe’s Tom Farragher Thursday at 9:30 a.m. for a URI Journalism Day panel: “Is Investigative Journalism Dead?” (My answer: No.) And the evening before, Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann will speak at 6 p.m. at Newport’s Salve Regina University about his recent book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.”
12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Tim White hosts a post-election political roundtable with Darrell West, Arlene Violet, Joe Fleming and me. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – assessing Sandy’s damage and preparing for the next emergency with RIEMA chief Theresa Murray and disaster-prep expert Donna Childs. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or 6 a.m. on Fox). See you back here next Saturday morning.
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