The big political news of the yesterday was Governor Lincoln Chafee’s endorsement of U.S. Representative David Cicilline for Congress in 2012. First, Chris Fierro of Mr. Cicilline’s office tweeted last night that Gov. Chafee attended a fundraiser for the incumbent representative. Then the Governor’s office confirmed as much in this statement.
There’s a danger of reading too much into this, but it appears to be a good sign for both Mr. Cicilline and Gov. Chafee. It definitely hurts the campaign of Mr. Cicilline’s challenger Brendan Doherty, who could’ve bolstered his argument of being an acceptable Republican for Rhode Island by winning Gov. Chafee’s endorsement, Rhode Island’s last federal delegation Republican (it’s unlikely Mr. Doherty ever sought the Governor’s endorsement). But with no non-Democratic statewide officeholders left to endorse him, Mr. Doherty will have to rely on obscure RIGOP apparatchiks, conservative media, and the nationally-despised national Republican Party.
Mr. Cicilline won’t be overly-bolstered by this endorsement. As Mr. Nesi points out, the Governor and the Congressman are the two most disliked politicians in Rhode Island right now (of those politicians included on polls). If this was two years ago, such an endorsement might’ve shored up Mr. Cicilline’s progressive supporters, which it will somewhat help to do now. But Governor Chafee is not the same as Candidate Chafee, and his low poll numbers are likely due to a collapse in support from the labor-progressive coalition that propelled him into office in 2010. It does mean that potential Democratic primary opponent Anthony Gemma is increasingly isolated in Rhode Island’s political landscape.
I think Gov. Chafee actually benefits the most from this endorsement. There’s no doubt that the Governor has been pulling reliable duty as a Democratic Party workhorse; co-chairing President Barack Obama’s re-election committee, endorsing Senator Sheldon Whitehouse who ousted him from office, appearing with Providence mayor Angel Taveras, and now this. If the Governor makes the switch from Independent to Democrat, he might might be able to get more cooperation from the General Assembly in time for 2014, perhaps preside over a few legislative successes and stay in the limelight by virtue of party affiliation.
His fortunes are tied to those of the state’s of course, and Democrats might prefer that the Governor remains apart; setting up what could be an easy pick-up for current Treasurer Gina Raimondo without the risk of an unpopular candidate harming any down-ticket party members.