William A. Jacobson
The fiasco of Obama’s visit to Rhode Island — which led Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for Governor, to tell Obama to “shove” his endorsement — holds tremendous potential to split the Democratic base.
Obama came to Rhode Island to raise funds for the national Democratic Party and for David Cicilline, who is in a surprisingly tight race in my home district (RI-01) against Republican John Loughlin for the seat previously held by Patrick Kennedy.
Cicilline, the Mayor of Providence, is a divisive figure in Democratic circles to begin with. The Democratic primary was brutal, with Cicilline getting only 37% of the vote. Cicilline was hit hard by his Democratic opponents with some sharp television advertising.
Now comes word that in the wake of Obama’s visit, Bill Clinton is coming to Rhode Island to campaign for Caprio. While this will be spun as an attempt to unify Democrats, with Clinton serving as peacemaker, the effect will be the opposite.
While Cicilline is not running against Caprio, the two now are on opposite sides of the Democratic divide in Rhode Island. Cicilline inevitably will suffer some measure of collateral damage from his association with the fundraising fiasco and Obama’s dismissive treatment of Caprio.
John Loughlin needs a few things to come together to beat Cicilline, who has more money and better name recognition.
A split in the Democratic coalition, with a strong protest vote by Caprio supporters against Obama/Cicilline, may be just what the doctor ordered.