The line I’ve been toting is that Congressman David Cicilline isn’t as beatable as his approval ratings suggest. First off, I doubt that his approval ratings are low because of his time in Congress, where’s he’s been a reliable progressive vote (as he was always going to be). What seems to be the zeitgeist is that Mr. Cicilline is disliked because Providence is having budget issues.
I still think without a progressive anti-Cicilline in the primary race, progressive voters who fear that Mr. Cicilline might lose aren’t going to abandon him. Progressives are warming up right now, though they haven’t caught fire (they seem to have a knack for picking disappointing candidates).
If soon-to-be-announced primary opponent Anthony Gemma runs as he did last cycle – like he was running for a different office – then the only way he’ll win is through voter antipathy towards Mr. Cicilline, and not for any love of Mr. Gemma.
Let’s consider that possibility for a second. If you’re a progressive, here’s the question I have to ask: where do you go from there? Who do you vote for in November? Do you vote for Brendan Doherty and give a seat to the Republicans on the off-chance that Doherty will be defeated in 2014? Do you vote for Mr. Gemma, a right-wing Democrat who appears more likely to side with the Republicans than the Democrats and who’s competence you don’t have much faith in, but if elected is likely to stay there for years to come? Or do you just skip voting in CD1 come November?
I’m suspecting the last one for many progressives. The issue is that there is no “white knight” in the wings. Since progressives are over-reliant on the Democratic Party, there’s no way to do an end-run around the Democratic nomination process and run a progressive independent. That independent would also have to be well-financed and well-known (and at least popular with a decent swathe of Rhode Islanders); or otherwise risk media marginalization (a very stark possibility). If Mr. Cicilline goes down in a primary duel with Mr. Gemma, that will be it. Two non-progressives will battle for the center-right of Rhode Island voters.
It’s a sad problem to have. The only progressive candidate is terribly flawed, making what should be an easy waltz to reelection an obstacle course.