By Ted Nesi and Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - In his first TV interview since losing the 2010 governor’s race, former General Treasurer Frank Caprio told WPRI 12 he regrets his infamous comment that President Obama could take his endorsement and “shove it,” attributing the outburst to the frustrations of a losing campaign in its final weeks.
• Video: Watch the full Newsmakers with Frank Caprio (May 14)
Who’s going to vote today? The answer could decide (among other things) whether Rhode Island’s 1st District sends Congressman Cicilline or Congressman Doherty to Washington come January.
Rhode Island’s last general election was on Nov. 2, 2010, but the electorate that casts ballots today will look more like the one that went to the polls four years ago, on Nov. 4, 2008, because turnout is always higher in presidential years than in midterm/gubernatorial ones.
Here’s the data on Rhode Island turnout, as compiled by WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming:
The first question is, will Rhode Island voter turnout stay at the 67% level reached in 2008, or will it fall back to the 61% level seen in the 2004 and 2000 elections? Those six percentage points might not sound like much, but they’d be the difference between 447,513 and 491,531 votes – about 44,000 ballots, more than enough to swing a close race; Cicilline beat John Loughlin by 9,727 in 2010.
The next question: who exactly will those 447,000 to 491,000 voters be?
As Yogi Berra once remarked, it’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future. But we can take a look at Rhode Island’s last two presidential electorates and get a sense of who’s going to show up tomorrow.
A few things seem highly likely: more women will show up at the polls than men; about one in five voters will be young; Democrats and independents will vastly outnumber Republicans. But will the share of non-white voters jump again? Will Democrats top 40%?
The answers won’t be known until after Tuesday. (Actually, they won’t be known at all – Rhode Island’s exit poll was canceled to save money.) But here’s a look at who voted in 2004 and 2008 so you can see trends:
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Federal Election Commission hit Congressman David Cicilline with a $4,530 fine last month because he failed to properly report $37,600 worth of campaign donations made in conjunction with a fundraiser that President Obama headlined in Providence in 2010.
This morning I had the pleasure of speaking with a Johnson & Wales University class taught by former Democratic Lt. Gov. Charlie Fogarty, who’s now the head of the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, and thought of something for the first time.
JWU employs both Fogarty, who ran for governor in 2006, and John Robitaille, who ran as a Republican last year. Both men came very close to taking the office – Fogarty lost by 7,803 votes to Don Carcieri and Robitaille lost by 8,660 votes to Lincoln Chafee. A shift of less than 10,000 votes, and both these men would be governors instead of professors.
Also interesting – for all the talk about Chafee winning only 36% of the vote last November, he actually defeated Robitaille by more votes than the number that separated Carcieri and Fogarty back in November 2006.
Rhode Island’s Hispanic voting-age population grew by 13,000 from November 2008 to November 2010, raising the total number to 84,000, Census estimates show.
By contrast, the population of white voting-age Rhode Islanders dropped by 20,000 over the same period, falling to 649,000. That figure excludes Hispanics.
Hispanic Rhode Islanders are far less likely to be registered to vote than their whites neighbors, however, with only 24% of eligible Hispanics registered compared with 71% of non-Hispanic whites, the Census said.
The report also showed last fall’s midterm election drew relatively few young residents and Hispanic citizens to the polls in Rhode Island.
Last November’s midterm elections drew 46.7% of Rhode Island citizens over the age of 18 to the polls, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
That’s the lowest midterm election turnout in Rhode Island since comparable Census records begin in 1986, and way down from the 58.8% turnout in 2006, a year that included the hard-fought U.S. Senate race between Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse.
It’s also down from the 67.4% of Rhode Island citizens 18 and older who voted in the 2008 election, which is less surprising since presidential years usually see a big surge in voter turnout.
Voter turnout in November 2010 ranged from over 55% in Maine and Washington to under 40% in Texas, with Massachusetts’ turnout at 52.2%, the Census said.
“The most common reason people did not vote was they were too busy (27%),” the Census said in a news release. “Another 16% felt that their vote would not make a difference.”
Hispanics made up 7% of voters nationwide in 2010, up from 6% in 2006, while black voters’ share rose from 11% to 12%.
That’s according to New Harbor Group’s biennial survey of how much all the candidates for General Assembly raised and spent in their most recent campaigns (2010):
Historically, the leadership of both chambers raises and spends the most money, and that proved to be the case again in 2010. House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) raised $142,000, and spent $117,000 last year. Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) raised $111,000, and spent $131,000.
The average winner in either chamber spent significantly less than the leaders, however. In the Senate that number was $25,064, while in the House the figure was $17,308.
But even those figures are high in a surprising number of races. For instance, in the House, 25 members spent less than $10,000 to get elected, including five newcomers. And these weren’t easy races either – 18 of the 25 were against credible opponents who received more than one-third of the vote. In the Senate, ten Senators spent less than $10,000 to get elected, including three first-timers.
As for the lawmaker most in the news this week – Rep. Daniel Gordon, R-Portsmouth – he was among last year’s most frugal candidates, raising and spending $4,050. Only 10 of the 75 other winning candidates for the House spent less. Gordon’s opponent, Democrat George Alzaibak, spent $7,231 – 24th-most among the 70 who lost.
(Fun fact: David Preston, New Harbor Group’s founder and president, remains the last person to run a winning Democratic campaign for governor in Rhode Island – 19 years ago when he managed Bruce Sundlun’s 1992 victory, as RI NPR’s Scott MacKay has pointed out.)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State Rep. Daniel Gordon’s criminal record may be extensive, but his political record is not.
Gordon didn’t cast a ballot in a single election in Massachusetts from 2000 though 2008 after originally registering as a Republican in Taunton, according to records reviewed by WPRI.com. He later moved to Fall River, which dropped him from the voter rolls in 2008 when he did not respond to a confirmation card.
Gordon registered to vote in Portsmouth as an independent in May 2009 but did not provide a prior address when he filled out the form, Town Registrar Madeleine Pencak told WPRI.com.
Gordon eventually registered as a Republican in Portsmouth on June 14, 2010, just two weeks before he declared his candidacy to succeed John Loughlin as District 71′s representative on June 28, according to Pencak and records at the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office.
Other Republicans struggled this week to recall how Gordon wound up being their sole candidate to compete for Loughlin’s open seat, which was one of just 10 districts out of 113 held by the GOP during the General Assembly’s last session. Loughlin stepped aside to mount a losing bid for Congress against Democrat David Cicilline.
Tim White contributed to this report.
• Related: What happens if state Rep. Daniel Gordon resigns from office? (Sept. 19)
Back when I was a reporter in Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim CEO Charlie Baker was often mentioned as a potential savior for the state’s underpowered Republican Party. So when Baker threw his hat into the ring against incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick last year, I figured he’d give the first-term Democrat a run for his money.
In the end, it was not to be for the GOP. Patrick defeated Baker 48%-42% in the November election, likely helped by the third-party candidacy of independent Tim Cahill, who took 8% of the gubernatorial vote.
Still, Baker ran a competitive race and clearly learned a lot. He shared 10 of observations Tuesday in an article for CommonWealth magazine that’s a good read for would-be politicians and those who cover them alike. These two stood out to me:
Third, the media will challenge you. It’s not exactly a game of “gotcha,” but anyone who runs for office at any level needs to understand that the journalists who cover your race will test you – deliberately. They will want to know what makes you tick. …
Sixth, get used to asking people for money. Many people say this is the hardest part of any campaign. Perhaps. I had over 520 fundraisers, found over 33,000 donors (and signed thank you notes to every single one), and raised more money than any challenger ever who ran for a statewide office. … Money matters, it’s as simple as that. It may not be pretty, but it’s a fundamental part of the process.
That last point about fundraising is something I’ve heard many times. Particularly for first-time candidates, it’s awkward – but essential – to get comfortable shaking down perfect strangers for cash. Locally, it’s one of the questions everybody has about Brendan Doherty’s campaign against David Cicilline, a proven fundraiser in his own right. How successful will Doherty be in raising money? (He’ll make his first big attempt next week.)
You can read Baker’s whole piece here.
Winning Connections, a Washington political consulting firm that advised Chafee’s victorious gubernatorial campaign, said Tuesday it’s been honored for its work on the independent’s behalf.
Winning Connections won 15 awards in 10 categories at the American Association of Political Consultants’ 2010 “Pollie” awards, which it described as “the political equivalent of the Oscars.”
Oddly though, the firm spelled Chafee’s last name wrong not once, not twice, but three separate times in its press release, dubbing him “Lincoln Chaffee.” (Perhaps they also advise the local National Organization for Marriage chapter.)
Chafee paid Winning Connections $75,868 for its services in the two months before the Nov. 2 election, campaign finance records filed with the R.I. Board of Elections show. Chafee spent a total of $2.5 million on his campaign for governor, much of it out of his own pocket.
Winning Connections said it received top honors in two categories for its Chafee campaign work: “Overall Phone and Field Campaign” and “Most Innovative Use of Automated Technology.” Here’s how the group describes what it did for the governor:
Winning Connections provided our cutting-edge predictive dialer, WinDialer, to help the [Chafee] campaign’s volunteers make thousands of calls in a more efficient way than they could have with traditional phonebanking. We worked with the campaign to strategically target voters who were most likely to support Senator Chafee and ran a paid calling program to identify, persuade and turnout tens of thousands of Chafee voters on Election Day.
“Winning Connections did a great job,” Patrick Rogers, who chaired the campaign and is now Chafee’s chief of staff, is quoted as saying on the firm’s website. “We loved using WinDialer! Their calling program helped us reach the right voters with the right message.” The firm did work for state Rep. Maria Cimini and the Progressive Leadership Fund last year, too, campaign records show.
(WinDialer could also be the nickname of Charlie Sheen’s cell phone. Winning!)
Update: “Chaffee” is lucky Winning Connections wasn’t responsible for writing up his direct mail material, one wag points out via e-mail.
Update #2: Elizabeth Roberts’ TV consultant, Joe Slade White & Co., won the top award for “a Statewide – Democrat (Non-Gubernatorial) television spot” for this ad, a tipster informs me.
Months after his run for Mayor of Providence ended in a Democratic primary defeat, Steve Costantino’s bank account is still considerably lighter than it was before the campaign.
As of Dec. 31, Costantino still hadn’t paid himself back for $381,000 worth of personal loans he made to his campaign late last summer. His political war chest had a meager $2,179 in cash at the close of last year.
The former House Finance chairman wasn’t alone in dipping into his personal funds during the mayoral race.
As of Dec. 31, Angel Taveras has only gotten back $20,000 of the $70,000 he loaned to his campaign. John Lombardi loaned his campaign even more – $100,000 – but hasn’t filed his Dec. 31 finance report yet.
Costantino, who’s now running the Office of Health and Human Services for Governor Chafee, at least can commiserate about the situation with his new boss. As of Dec. 31, Chafee hadn’t gotten back a dime of the $1.61 million in loans he made to his campaign between April 2009 and last October.
I asked our Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming what he thought about Gov. Carcieri’s suggestion that Rhode Island should consider adopting runoff elections after Lincoln Chafee won the governor’s office with only 36% of the vote.
“I believe this election was the exception,” Fleming told me in an e-mail. “In most years, a third candidate would only get about 5% of the vote. I do not see this happening very often. … You very seldom get three candidates that all can draw a large number of votes.”
And, he added, “I do not think the General Assembly would be in favor of such an idea.”
You can catch Tim White’s report with Carcieri’s thoughts on runoffs and a potential Senate bid in 2012 during tonight’s 6 p.m. newscast.
In his exit interview with my colleague Tim White, Gov. Don Carcieri made this interesting suggestion:
I don’t know how you govern effectively when you’ve got a little more than a third of the voters that supported you. I think the notion of a runoff, or something, that would at least – whoever is sitting in this seat would feel more comfortable -
White: You think there should be a runoff election?
Yeah, I do. I think it’s a healthier thing for the whole process.
There are many, many ways to structure runoff elections, as this massive Wikipedia article shows. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that Rhode Island implemented a system where, if no candidate gets 50% in the first round of voting, the top two vote-getters would compete head-to-head in a second round.
What that would have meant in the most recent gubernatorial election is that instead of Lincoln Chafee winning the governor’s office with 36% of the vote, he and second-place John Robitaille – who got 34%, and was Carcieri’s candidate – would have gone on to the second round. They would have had to do a few weeks of quick campaigning – we probably would have hosted another debate with just the two of them – before voters headed back to the polls to pick one or the other.
In a runoff, the big question is what happens to the voters who supported other candidates in the first round. About 30% of voters supported someone other than Chafee or Robitaille on Nov. 2. Most of them backed Frank Caprio, a Democrat with a center-right bent, so Robitaille would have had a good shot at picking up a lot of them – though we don’t actually know the composition of Caprio’s 78,896 voters.
A second-round runoff also would have a dramatically different dynamic than the rest of the gubernatorial campaign. The Chafee campaign would have had to scramble to define Robitaille, who had been little-known to voters just a few weeks before the vote. But Robitaille would no longer have been battling Caprio – and, to a lesser extent, Ken Block – on the right. Here’s some of how Robitaille analyzed that dynamic in his interview with me earlier this month:
I think the Ken Block factor was significant, absolutely significant. For him to poll six or seven percent in a seven-way race was definitely a factor. And then when you look at – only 36 percent of the people voted for Linc, who was clearly the only progressive running, and the only one really running completely left of center. The three of us, Block, Caprio and myself, were all clearly running right of center. So when you’ve got three people dividing up 64 percent of the vote, it’s tough for any one of us to win.
Tim will have more highlights from his interview with Carcieri on tonight’s evening news. The full interview will air during a special edition of “Newsmakers” this weekend.
Update: Common Cause Rhode Island’s John Marion writes in to point out that there are a number of other ways to structure a runoff apart from the Louisiana/France-inspired scenario I outlined above.
In 2012, California is moving to a system where it holds one big primary, and the top two vote-winners – regardless of party – compete in the general election. So if the Democrat and Green Party candidates come in first and second in the state’s all-party primary, the Republican won’t be on the ballot in the general.
There’s also instant-runoff voting, where voters rank their preferences numerically on the ballot and then the least-preferred candidates keep getting knocked out until somebody makes it over the 50% mark. So if you were a right-leaning voter who prefers Caprio you might mark your ballot “Caprio 1, Robitaille 2, Block 3, Chafee 4.” That way, if Caprio gets knocked out of the running because not enough people prefer him, you wind up supporting Robitaille, your second-choice, rather than inadvertently helping Chafee.
Gov. Donald Carcieri, whose term ends next month, mostly sat out the latest election cycle when it came to campaign contributions. John Robitaille, a former aide to the governor, was the only Republican who got Carcieri’s support, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Rhode Island Board of Elections. Carcieri and his wife, Suzanne, gave Robitaille a total of $4,000.
By contrast, in 2008 Carcieri made donations of between $150 and $500 to more than two dozen General Assembly candidates in the two months prior to the election, including John Loughlin, Francis Maher and Nick Gorham.
The only other candidate to whom Carcieri gave money during this cycle was Kristen J. Catanzaro, who won the Democratic primary for the North Providence Town Council seat vacated by Raymond L. Douglas III after his indictment on corruption charges. Carcieri gave $200 to Catanzaro on June 23. She went on to defeat Republican Kenneth Amoriggi and win the council seat in August.
In 2009, Carcieri gave $1,625 to the Rhode Island Republican Party and $750 to the Rhode Island Young Republicans. He did not donate to either organization this year. Nor did he donate to John Loughlin’s 1st Congressional District campaign against Providence Mayor David Cicilline.
Carcieri’s spokeswoman, Amy Kempe, said as a state employee she was not allowed to answer questions about the governor’s political contributions when asked about them earlier this fall. She also said the governor was not available for an interview.
G.O.P. Chairman Gio Cicione told me in October that party officials had asked the governor to focus on helping Robitaille and other statewide candidates raise money while they emphasized their Clean Slate legislative campaign. “It’s been a pretty good division of effort I think,” Cicione said in an e-mail.
“As for his personal donations, I’m not sure I have anything to offer there,” Cicione added. “I’ve just not followed it.”
The second half of the Q&A starts off with politics – including Robitaille’s thoughts on whether Erik Wallin should take over the Rhode Island G.O.P. – and then moves onto policy. He thinks Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee and the General Assembly will have to pare back social safety-net spending, and also defended Carcieri’s immigration order. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Republican Party Chairman Gio Cicione was on “Newsmakers” with us a few weeks back and suggested he’d welcome Lincoln Chafee back to the Republican Party. Not all Republicans agree. What do you think?
What makes you a Republican or a Democrat? It’s not just filling out a card – I mean, I suppose you could go and affiliate yourself with the party, but unless you believe in the core values and principles of Republicanism, you’re not truly a Republican. I don’t think Linc Chafee ever was a Republican in terms of his fundamental principles of government and his value system. When he was a senator, I think he certainly acted more like a Democrat than most Democrats did. So no, I don’t know why Gio said that. I think if Linc starts governing more like a Republican – which I know he won’t do – that’s one thing to think about. But just to say, hey, let’s have somebody back, that’s kind of a crazy statement.
When I caught up with John Robitaille by phone Thursday – one month after he came within two points of defeating Lincoln Chafee – he was relaxing by the beach in Hawaii. The man had earned a rest after a grueling gubernatorial campaign anyway, but he also had a good excuse for heading to an island paradise five time zones away from Rhode Island: his daughters and grandchildren live there.
Robitaille, 62, talked with me for about a half-hour about how the governor’s race played out, his future plans, what he expects from Gov.-elect Chafee, and how he would deal with the budget.
The headline from the interview was Robitaille’s interest in a 2012 U.S. Senate bid, which I reported yesterday on WPRI.com. But he also offered a candid recap of how it felt to be at the center of this year’s campaign.
Since the full Q&A is somewhat long, I’m going to post the transcript in two parts, lightly edited for clarity. Today’s installment focuses on the gubernatorial race, including how it felt when his campaign took off and the threat the Moderate Party could pose to Rhode Island’s Republicans. (For those reading on the main Blogs page, click the link to read the rest after the jump.)
I spent a half-hour on the phone with Republican John Robitaille earlier this afternoon, and just posted the first news from the interview:
John Robitaille, the Republican who nearly defeated Lincoln Chafee in last month’s gubernatorial election, is seriously weighing a run against U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in 2012.
In an exclusive interview, Robitaille told WPRI.com he has asked his political advisers to conduct a feasibility study to assess what it would take for him to mount a credible challenge against the first-term Democrat.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet, and I’m not going to until after the first of the year,” Robitaille said by phone from Hawaii, where he is visiting his daughters and grandchildren. “But it definitely is on the table.” Another possibility would be a second bid for the governor’s office in 2014, he said.
During a half-hour conversation, Robitaille also discussed how the Moderate Party likely cost him the governor’s office and what he expects from Chafee. The full interview will be published Friday and Monday on WPRI.com’s Nesi’s Notes blog.
Robitaille suggested a Republican candidate will need to raise between $4 million and $5 million to stand a serious chance of defeating Whitehouse, who won the seat in 2006 from then-Republican Chafee.
Read the rest on WPRI.com, including reaction from our political analyst Joe Fleming. Here’s the full transcript of what Robitaille said when I asked him about the next election:
Oh, I certainly would consider it. In fact, I’ve asked my consultants to do sort of a preliminary assessment, a feasibility-type recommendation for a Senate run. But I haven’t made up my mind yet, and I’m not going to until after the first of the year as to what I’m going to do. But it definitely is on the table as something I have to say I would consider.
But I’m no fool. I mean, it’s going to be a presidential election year, and the Democratic Party is not going to want to give up that seat. Even though I proved you don’t need a lot of money to make a good showing, I think in order to run for a Senate seat you’re looking at probably $4 million or $5 million, somewhere in that neighborhood. So whoever decides to run for that seat against Whitehouse would need to really start planning probably as early as January or February of this coming year, at least to put an exploratory committee together and see if he can raise money.
And a lot’s going to depend, too, Ted, on what happens nationally. I mean, I know President Obama’s approval ratings have continued to slide with the economy, but if the economy starts turning around and if his presidency parallels any of the other first-term presidents that have a real bad first two years and then start coming up he could be on the upswing approaching the 2012 elections, and he could have some coattails, especially in a blue state like Rhode Island. All that has to be factored in.
Plus, I have other options. There’s a couple of books in my head. I’ve already spoken to two firms that deal in public relations and public affairs, one has an office in Washington. I’ve spoken with some higher-ed folks, a couple of private companies. Right now there’s a lot up in the air that when I get back from my little respite here, I will begin meeting with some folks and try to come up with a definitive plan.
But wherever I end up in January, I need to find myself a position where it still leaves me that option of running in either 2012 or running for governor again in 2014. I’m very cognizant of that.
I’ll post the full Robitaille Q&A right here on Nesi’s Notes in two parts tomorrow and Friday – transcribing takes time. He was quite candid, and offered an interesting behind-the-scenes take on how the governor’s race played out.
As I reported yesterday on WPRI.com, Rhode Island’s four candidates for governor spent a combined $6.3 million on their respective campaigns over the course of nearly two years. Here’s a chart showing the totals for each one:
That’s a lot of money – so much that it can be hard to wrap our brains around it. So let’s look at the numbers another way – spending per vote. (A little crass, perhaps, but interesting just the same.) To get that number, I took the amount of money each candidate spent on his campaign and divided it by the number of votes he received.
By that metric, John Robitaille ran by far the savviest race. The Republican’s campaign invested $603,833 in the race and received 114,911 votes – so he spent only $5.25 for every vote he received.
At the other extreme, Frank Caprio’s campaign invested $2.7 million in the race but only managed to get 78,896 votes, so he spent $33.66 for each vote he received, more than six times as much as Robitaille. Here are the spending-per-vote numbers for all four:
- Caprio: $33.66
- Block: $23.79
- Chafee: $20.42
- Robitaille: $5.25
Lincoln Chafee spent $2.5 million over 19 months to win the Rhode Island governor’s office, including more than $1 million in the final four weeks, an analysis of campaign finance records by WPRI.com shows.
More than half that money came straight out of the Chafee family’s bank account. The independent former senator loaned his campaign a total of $1.61 million over the course of the campaign, according to his final campaign finance report, which was filed Tuesday with the Board of Elections.
Chafee spent four times as much as the man who came in second, John Robitaille. The Republican nominee spent a comparatively paltry $603,833 but managed to come within 8,660 votes of defeating Chafee.
Moderate Ken Block spent $500,709, almost as much as Robitaille, but came in a distant fourth, though he did crack the 5% mark to keep his nascent party on the ballot.
And then, of course, there’s Frank Caprio.
The Democrat’s candidacy suffered an epic collapse in the final weeks of the campaign. He’d already spent well over $2 million as of Oct. 25, and almost certainly added to that in the final week of the race.
Caprio hasn’t filed his final report yet – he has until 11:59 tonight to send it in. I’ll have a new post, more analysis and charts (of course!) once all the numbers are in.
Update: Lincoln Chafee spent $2.5 million to win the election. Frank Caprio spent even more to lose. Read my full story on WPRI.com.
The whispers about Roberts started last spring, when it emerged that she would face a primary challenge from Jeremy Kapstein, a wealthy Red Sox executive and Tiverton native whose father was a state lawmaker. (Roberts had already bowed out of the Democratic gubernatorial race the previous summer.) Pundits saw the makings of a tough race, and Frank Caprio wouldn’t even endorse Roberts.
But Kapstein’s campaign never took off – he raised little money and put minimal effort into the contest – and Roberts walloped him in the Sept. 14 primary, winning 64% of the vote to his 36%.
Then Roberts’ Republican opponent, Heidi Rogers, abruptly dropped out just days after winning the party’s nomination. The Republicans threw their support behind perennial candidate Bob Healey Jr., whose campaign platform called for eliminating the lieutenant governor’s office altogether.
As the election drew closer, plenty of people (myself included) thought Roberts was in trouble. Healey’s anti-establishment message offered an opportunity for a grumpy electorate to stick it to an incumbent, and our WPRI 12 poll just before the vote showed him within seven points of Roberts.
Those predictions were dead wrong. Roberts defeated Healey by a 16-point margin last Tuesday, taking 55% of the vote to his 39%.
Now here’s an interesting data point for you, courtesy Twitter user Mario.
RI.gov’s election results page lets you break out absentee ballot results from regular votes cast at a polling place. And among those who cast a mail ballot, Frank Caprio – who won just 23% of the total vote – came out on top, ahead of both Chafee and Robitaille. Here’s the breakdown for absentee voters:
- Caprio: 3,912 (34%)
- Chafee: 3,749 (32%)
- Robitaille: 3,365 (29%)
The deadline to apply for a mail ballot was Oct. 12, three weeks before the election. Thus mail-ballot voters can be quite different from those who turn out at the polls on Election Day, since they’re not necessarily representative of the broader electorate and – importantly – may make their choices before events late in a campaign.
That, of course, brings up the question of how much impact Shoveitgate had in the end. Matt McDermott, a Rhode Island Democrat studying at the London School of Economics, estimates that Caprio won mail ballot voters in Providence by 11 points – then went on to lose the city by 20 points. Judging by the figures above, McDermott thinks Shoveitgate cost Caprio 11 points in the end.
The only note of caution I’d add there is that – as I’ve mentioned repeatedly – our last WPRI 12 poll showed Caprio was already sinking fast in the days before Shoveitgate, so it appears his candidacy was already being damaged by Robitaille’s surge even before the controversial remark. But I have no doubt “shove it” is what helped push the Democrat’s final total all the way down to the low 20s.
Democrats took a coast-to-coast “shellacking” in Tuesday’s midterm elections, to use President Obama’s evocative word. Although the party held onto its U.S. Senate majority, Republicans picked up at least 60 seats in the House – many more than the 39 they needed to win back the majority, and even more than the 54 seats they won in Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Republican Revolution.
Yet in both Republican landslides, Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District marched to the beat of a different drummer. As one observer joked yesterday, the Republican wave stopped at the Hurricane Barrier.
This week, Democrat David Cicilline beat Republican John Loughlin by a comfortable margin of 51%-45%. And back in 1994, Democrat Patrick Kennedy defeated Republican Kevin Vigilante by an even wider margin of 54%-46%. In fact, Kennedy was one of only four Democrats who picked up a previously Republican House seat in 1994, a year that was otherwise disastrous for his party. (He succeeded retiring Congressman Ron Machtley, now Bryant University’s president.)
Sure, you could simply chalk up the 1st District’s resistance to both G.O.P. waves to Rhode Island being the nation’s most liberal state (at least nowadays) – and it’s true that Republicans failed to win any House seats on Tuesday in Massachusetts, too. But I think the picture may be a little more interesting than that.
For one thing, at least in 1994 there was no reason to think the 1st District was enemy territory for Republicans – the G.O.P. had managed to hold the 1st District seat in 1992 despite Bill Clinton’s strong performance here that year. And not one but two Republicans managed to win House seats in Massachusetts in ’94: Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen. (Both men lost two years later, and the Bay State has never elected a Republican congressman since.)
In addition, political observers considered both Loughlin and Vigilante to be strong contenders – though Loughlin was at a financial disadvantage throughout his race. Both Kennedy and Cicilline were somewhat polarizing candidates, too – Kennedy because of his youth and famous last name, Cicilline as a sitting mayor of Providence.
One factor that may have helped Democrats win the 1st in both 1994 and 2010 was that the party’s candidate wasn’t an incumbent either time. Thus neither Kennedy nor Cicilline had voted for controversial laws like Clinton’s deficit-reduction package or Obama’s health reform, and therefore were able to distance themselves a bit from the Washington status quo despite being members of the party in power. Indeed, there’s a strong possibility that Kennedy would have lost if he’d run for reelection this year, judging by the poll we conducted last winter, before he announced his retirement.
Whatever the answer is, Loughlin’s loss has to be disappointing to Republicans, just as Vigilante’s was in 1994. It’s much harder – and more expensive – to pick off a sitting congressman than it is to defeat a first-time candidate, particularly in years that aren’t marked by the kind of voter discontent we saw this week.
Then again, this was the nation’s third wave election in a row – who knows what could happen in 2012 or 2014?
The Democratic Governors Association spent well over $1 million this year on behalf of Frank Caprio’s gubernatorial bid. That’s on top of the roughly $3 million spent by Caprio’s actual campaign.
Yet Caprio finished the night in a distant third place, winning just 23% of the vote in a three-man race. National pundits will blame his loss on Shoveitgate, but our final WPRI 12 poll of the campaign showed Caprio was already fading fast even before his controversial comments about President Obama.
Just before midnight, DGA Chair and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell issued a statement about Caprio’s loss. “In a state hard-hit by the national recession, Frank Caprio ran as a strong Democrat committed to the principles of our party, but even a strong campaign couldn’t overcome the national wave,” Markell said. “We appreciate his dedication to the people of Rhode Island and wish him the best in his next endeavor.”
It seems like a stretch to attribute Caprio’s loss to a “national wave.” I don’t think many people are going to describe the midterm elections of 2010 as a high-water mark for Chafee-style Rockefeller Republicanism.
More importantly, at this writing Democrats have already lost the governorships of Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New Mexico, Kansas, Wyoming, Michigan, Wisconsin and Oklahoma. Plenty of people will be able to imagine more productive ways the DGA could have spent the seven-figure sum blown on Caprio’s double-digit defeat.
WPRI.com’s Ted Nesi live blogged Tuesday’s general election.
Here’s a recap.
- Governor: Lincoln Chafee (Ind.)
- US House 1: David Cicilline (D)
- Lt. Governor: Elizabeth Roberts (D)
- Attorney General: Peter Kilmartin (D)
- Treasurer: Gina Raimondo (D)
- Secretary of State: Ralph Mollis (D)
- Complete election results
11:34 p.m. | Here’s a postscript – a photo of David Cicilline talking with Jim Langevin at the Providence Biltmore, courtesy Tim White, who just finished up there:
11:27 p.m. | Well, with the big races called I’m going to shut down the live blog to focus on my preview of the Chafee administration. I’ll have much more coverage of the election and its outcome here on Nesi’s Notes in the days, weeks and months to come. Stay with WPRI for live TV coverage of tonight’s election, which continues as I write this with a live interview with Chafee himself.
Election Day appears to be off to a solid start in Rhode Island, other than an early car crash in Westerly. The weather – which can be the deciding factor in an election – is clear but cold across the state, with the temperature in Smithfield at 41 degrees as I write this, according to the National Weather Service.
Lincoln Chafee got a boost to start his day when he was one of 10 gubernatorial candidates nationwide to win the endorsement of The New York Times, though I’m not sure how many votes that will swing his way. Meanwhile, the dead-tree edition of today’s Providence Journal reminds us how important newspapers used to be on balloting days by featuring newsroom photographs from days gone by.
On the blogs, Dan McGowan of Rhode Island’s Future reminds voters to flip over their ballots so they don’t miss the four ballot questions, while Justin Katz of Anchor Rising suggests Republicans disgruntled by lieutenant governor candidate Heidi Rogers’ bait-and-switch should write in Kara Russo – Christopher Young’s fiancée – instead.
Greater City: Providence’s Jef Nickerson (who was kind enough to plug my coverage here) wins best one-liner of the morning: “This is it, the day we’ve all been waiting for, the first day of the 2012 campaign season.” I expect to see more than a few would-be 2012 presidential candidates on TV tonight and tomorrow.
My friend who received the three robocalls yesterday afternoon on Frank Caprio’s behalf got a fourth one this morning – this time from Congressman Patrick Kennedy. Caprio “told the Endorser-in-Chief to shove it, but I guess everyone else is welcome,” he quipped in an e-mail. At least he’s still receiving his calls, though – Comcast says its phone lines in New Hampshire and parts of Massachsuetts got so overloaded with robocalls they were jammed for a bit.
I asked Chris Barnett, spokesman for Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, how many Rhode Islanders are eligible to vote in today’s election out of our population of about 1 million. As you can see, independent voters outnumber Democrats by about 22,000. Here are the numbers:
- Democrats: 305,290
- Republicans: 76,780
- Moderates: 358
- Unaffiliated: 327,806
Of course, not all those people are going to show up to vote today. Looking at the last three gubernatorial elections, there were 386,809 ballots cast for governor in 2006 (Carcieri v. Fogarty); 332,056 in 2002 (Carcieri v. York); and 306,445 in 1998 (Almond v. York). The big turnout in 2006 was partly due to the high-profile U.S. Senate race between Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse, though.
As I mentioned this morning, WPRI will be covering the elections all day and into the night both online and on TV. I’m going to start blogging regularly later this afternoon, and I’ll be bringing you Rhode Island’s results live right here once the clock hits 9 p.m., the same way I did on primary night.
We won’t have to wait that long for the news to start coming in, though – polls close at 6 p.m. in Indiana, which could help us gauge how good a night Republicans are going to have nationally, and then at 8 p.m. in Massachusetts, where I’ll be watching to see how incumbents Deval Patrick and Barney Frank fare.
(photo credit: Library of Congress)
Polling places are now open across much of Rhode Island – a few towns wait until 8 a.m., and Block Island holds off until 9 – and the state’s 710,234 voters are beginning to cast their ballots. There’s no big rush, though, since polls don’t close here until 9 p.m., nearly 14 hours from now. (Click here to find your polling place.)
The Projo’s Peter Lord had a fun story in yesterday’s paper about the historical reasons that Rhode Island is one of three states that keep polls open until 9. (The other two are Iowa and New York.) I always figured lawmakers set the 9 p.m. closing time to punish us reporters who torment them the rest of the year – but according to Lord, that’s not the case:
Rhode Island’s 9 p.m. closing time was established in 1966, as just one measure amid legislation reapportioning all 100 House seats in Rhode Island, according to the Rhode Island State Library, which does legal and historical research at the State House. Gov. John H. Chafee vetoed the reapportionment bill, but the House overrode his veto, so the state was reapportioned and polling hours were extended. …
A few months later, poll workers on Block Island raised objections. They didn’t need 12 hours to handle the 500 or so residents on the island, they said. The 9 p.m. closing required a 12-hour work shift in a building with no running water and wooden benches that provided the only places to rest. Their complaints apparently had no impact on state law.
The 1966 law also set opening hours for each community. For most, the opening time is 7 a.m. Exceptions were made for a number of communities. New Shoreham, for instance, was allowed to open its polling place at 9 a.m.
Spokesmen for the secretaries of state in Iowa and New York said they hadn’t heard of anyone complaining about their 9 p.m. poll closings. But on primary day in New York, much of the state didn’t open its polls until noon.
First, I hope the poll workers on Block Island have gotten running water and more comfortable chairs sometime in the intervening 44 years. Second, not everyone is as skeptical of Rhode Island’s 9 p.m. closing time as Lord’s sources.
John Marion of Common Cause Rhode Island told me that while Rhode Island does have somewhat longer poll hours than other states, it also hasn’t taken the same steps that other states have to make it easier for people to vote when it’s most convenient for them. Marion pointed to a recent study by the National Conference of State Legislatures that showed 32 states now allow some version of early voting, and 30 states have “no-excuse” absentee ballots. Rhode Island isn’t one of them.
“Interestingly, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis has put in a bill to expand early voting (and even did a trial run at Saturday voting on a non-binding referendum in Lincoln), but it hasn’t really become an issue in that campaign,” Marion said in an e-mail, referencing Mollis’ race against Republican Catherine Taylor. It was one of the recommendations of the Voters First Advisory Commission that Mollis convened after he took office back in 2007.
WPRI will be covering the elections all day and into the night both online and on TV. Yours truly will start blogging regularly this afternoon, and I’ll be bringing you the results live right here once the clock hits 9 p.m. My goal tonight is the same as it was on primary night: be fast, but be accurate!
In the meantime, what are you seeing out there at your local polling place? How are the crowds? Any shenanigans? Are you in one of the candidates’ precincts? Drop us a line at ReportIt@wpri.com to share your stories and photos.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary in July to clear the way for Frank Caprio, is coming to his former rival’s aid on the eve of Election Day.
Lynch recorded a robocall – an automated phone message – that’s getting distributed this afternoon and was forwarded to me by one of the recipients. As you can see, it’s not easy to critique two other candidates and make the affirmative case for your own man in a 30-second message:
Hello. This is Attorney General Patrick Lynch, and I’m calling to ask you to vote for my friend, Frank Caprio, Democrat for governor, this Tuesday. Frank Caprio has a plan to get our economy moving again, and Rhode Island needs just that. We can’t afford Chafee’s plan to raise taxes on working families and we need to put an end to the failed Republican policies of the last 16 years. We need a Democrat in the governor’s office, and that Democrat is Frank Caprio. Please vote for Frank this Tuesday. Thank you.
Question: Do robocalls actually work?
Update: The same individual has now received a robocall from Frank Caprio himself. Unfortunately, Caprio’s message started playing while my correspondent’s outgoing message was still playing, so part of the message was cut off. But from context clues, it appears Frank Caprio wants people to vote for him tomorrow.
Update #2: My correspondent has now received a third Caprio robocall in the space of a few hours. This time it was Bill Clinton on his behalf. I can say that in this person’s case, the three robocalls has not made him more amenable to voting for the Democrat tomorrow.
That said, I shouldn’t pick on the Caprio campaign too much – they may just have the bad luck of robocalling somebody who emailed a reporter. Is Robitaille robocalling? Chafee? Ken Block? Joe Lusi? Let me know in comments.
The big headlines from our new WPRI 12 poll last week were Frank Caprio’s seven-point drop, which put Lincoln Chafee in the lead for governor, and John Loughlin’s rapid gain on David Cicilline in the space of a month. But there were other interesting nuggets buried in the poll’s crosstabs – here are a few that stuck out to me.
• Is Lincoln Chafee the Democrat in the governor’s race? Looking at the coalition he’s put together, you could make the case. Chafee is either winning or nearly tied with Frank Caprio among some of the Democratic Party’s core consistencies.
Chafee is winning 52% of union households to Caprio’s 22%. The pair are tied among women at 29%, and statistically tied among younger voters (ages 18 to 39), with Chafee at 35% and Caprio at 34%. Among registered Democrats, Caprio’s lead over Chafee is just four points, 45%-41%. In the Democratic-leaning 1st District, Chafee leads Caprio 33%-27%.
The problem for Caprio is he hasn’t made up for that with new support elsewhere – Chafee leads him among men, 37%-23%; independents, 34%-13%; and seniors, 31%-28%. Among Republicans, Caprio only leads Chafee by one point, 12%-11%, while John Robitaille has 67%.
• Who’s persuadable at this point in the governor’s race? Only a few groups still have a double-digit number of undecided voters: independents, 17%; women, 14%; people ages 40 to 59, 14%; and 2nd District residents, 12%. They are taking their time, too – the number of undecideds in those groups was not statistically different from our previous poll a month earlier.
• Moderate Party founder Ken Block gets his strongest support from independents, at 7%. He’s also polling at 6% – two points above his overall rating – among men, younger voters, and Republicans.
• Unlike Caprio, David Cicilline is hanging on to traditional Democratic supporters, which is helping him keep a six-point lead over John Loughlin. Cicilline is winning women, seniors, and union members. But independents have deserted him over the past month, giving Loughlin 58% to Cicilline’s 28% – a 24-point gain for Loughlin and a 10-point loss for Cicilline, with 14% still undecided.
• Will Bob Venturini be our own Ralph Nader? Elizabeth Roberts should thank her lucky stars that the Pawtucket cable TV fixture is still in the lieutenant governor’s race – if his 5% support were added to Bob Healey’s 35%, the lieutenant governor’s race would be a statistical tie. It’s also a tad surprising that Healey is only winning 50% of Republicans – did they not get the message when Heidi Rogers dropped out? Or do they dislike the message?
• We also found 16% of likely voters still unsure who to support in the lieutenant governor’s race. With Roberts at 42% and Healey at 35%, which way those undecideds break could decide the outcome. Democrats have rallied to Roberts, but 22% of independents and 18% of Republicans still haven’t made up their minds.
• Ken Block’s fellow Moderate, attorney general candidate Chris Little, is doing far better than his party’s founder, polling at 12% in a five-man field. Little is winning 16% of middle-aged voters, 15% of independents and 13% of men. That may help explain why front-runner Peter Kilmartin, a Democrat, has trained his fire on Little in addition to Republican Erik Wallin.
• Congressman Jim Langevin does best among younger voters – those aged 18 to 39 – at 65%. The older you are, the less you like Langevin – he gets 55% of those ages 40 to 59 and 49% of those ages 60 and older. Langevin also has 23% of Republicans.
• The campaign to change Rhode Island’s formal name by deleting “and Providence Plantations” has gotten very little traction, with just 16% of voters saying they will approve the switch.
• Caprio is winning 14% of voters who say his association with “old-style politics” will prevent them from voting for him. Chafee is winning 8% of voters who say his sales tax proposal will, again, prevent them from voting for him. Yet Robitaille is only winning 1% of voters who say his service in the Carcieri administration will prevent them from voting for him. Weird.
Candidates aren’t the only ones embracing social media ahead of tomorrow’s election.
The University of Rhode Island has been buying Facebook ads to drum up support for Question #2 on tomorrow’s ballot, which would give the state permission to borrow $78 million to build a new chemistry building at URI and a new art building at RIC. Here’s the ad I saw, which leads to an Essential2RI fan page with more information:
I asked URI where the money was coming from to pay for the Facebook ads, and an administrator said the school has a separate account that takes donations solely for the purpose of promoting Question #2. URI expects to spend about $125,000 campaigning for the ballot question when all is said in done. The money has come from the URI Alumni Association, the URI Foundation, and some faculty groups, among others.
The URI/RIC question is one of four on tomorrow’s ballot in Rhode Island. The quartet of queries asks if the state should:
- … remove “and Providence Plantations” from its official name?
- … borrow $78 million for the aforementioned new buildings at URI and RIC?
- … borrow $85 million for highway, road and bridge projects and RIPTA buses?
- … borrow $15 million to buy Rocky Point and Shooters and repair Fort Adams?
Across the border in Massachusetts, voters will decide on three ballot questions tomorrow.
As anyone who’s visited a Bay State liquor store lately knows, Question #1 would exempt alcohol from the state sales tax again, as was the case until last year. (The excise tax would stay.) Question #2 would repeal Chapter 40B, the long-controversial subsidized housing law enacted in 1969. And Question #3 – the one getting the most attention – would drop the Massachusetts sales tax rate from 6.25% to 3%.