Last week’s announcement that the Rhode Island’s chapter of the Republican Governor’s Association was pulling television ads that supported Cranston Mayor Allan Fung served as the clearest indication to date that the governor’s race was essentially a lock for Democrat incumbent, Gina Raimondo.
The cancelled ad spots, which sought to bolster Mr. Fung’s existing statewide base of support, along with a pair of recent polls that showed that the Republican nominee was trailing the Governor by as much as 14%, suggest a grim outlook for the Fung camp going into the homestretch of the election.
While the final weeks of this season could provide some shocking twists, the matchup has now swayed heavily towards another Raimondo victory.
There are myriad reasons to explain Fung’s inability to surpasse Raimondo, from Joe Trillo’s candidacy, to the Trumpian stigma associated with The Republican party, to the success the Governor has had in building a diverse, statewide coalition of support (and fundraising).
There is also the possibility that Mr. Fung’s strategy of laying low during the summer primary season left many voters feeling disconnected from him.
When assessing the two most recent public polls (a poll released by The Providence Journal / The Public’s Radio / ABC 6, and one released by GoLocalProv), it is interesting to note that a significant portion of the polling audience remained undecided in the governor’s race, or indicated that they would vote for a third party or independent candidate - independents Luis-Daniel Munoz and Joe Trillo, Moderate Bill Gilbert and the Compassion Party’s Reverend Anne Armstrong combined for a large portion of the polling numbers, suggesting that a large portion of Rhode Island voters are seeking a voice that doesn’t identify with the major parties to become governor.
While they often represent vastly different viewpoints, they share the common factor of appearing on the ballot having not been endorsed by a major political party.
Joe Trillo has significantly more name recognition (due in large part to his regular appearances on talk radio and guerilla campaign tactics) and support than any of the other ‘alternative’ candidates on the ballot, he is still widely unknown outside of political inside baseball.
Bob Healey achieved 22% of the vote as the Moderate Party candidate in the 2014 gubernatorial race, fueled entirely by Mr. Healey’s highly developed relationships with the communities around him, and his ability to communicate his message to his communities and beyond.
For a future alternative voice to succeed in Rhode Island, whether from within one of the two major parties, or from outside of them, a candidate must be exceptionally skilled at communicating their message, as well as developing sharp and authentic relationships with the communities around them.
While each of the non-Raimondo gubernatorial candidates have established political messages, none have matched the communication abilities that Raimondo and her organization possess.
The Governor is positioned well for another Democrat victory, but recent polls, as well as recent history should remind opposition candidates that there is a measurable desire for an alternative voice to take the State House; it is now on those candidates shoulders to become an authentic and compelling delivery person for their message in future elections.
As for 2018, it appears that Mayor Fung, nor any of the other opposition gubernatorial candidate were able to serve as a voice of change that could speak to the “Wheel of Fortune audience” with more impact than the status quo.
BILL BARTHOLOMEW IS A MUSICIAN, PODCAST HOST AND POLITICAL WRITER IN PROVIDENCE, RI. FOLLOW ON TWITTER@BILLBARTHOLOMEW. LISTEN TO BARTHOLOMEWTOWN RADIO LIVE ON 990WBOB.COM EVERY TUESDAY AT 7PM OR ON DEMAND.
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