Does the Republican candidate, John Loughlin, stand a chance in such a blue district?
He does and the reason is that the Democrats are in a four-way primary. If one candidate or another comes out of that with just thirty-six or thirty-seven percent that’s a problem. If you don’t win fifty percent of your party’s vote in the primary that means there’s a lot of pissed off people.
The way New England works is that we have these late primaries; they’re late in the cycle and it means there’s only six weeks to kiss and make up and replenish your campaign money before the general election. Loughlin’s whole challenge is whether he can move the poll numbers enough to get the national party involved with some serious money. They’ve given some money and Scott Brown did a fundraiser for him. But they have not at this point opened the coffers and said, ‘Here you go guys, here’s a million dollars.” And to win an open seat I think you need at least a million unless you’re really well known.
How well known are the four Democrats running for the district?
David Cicilline is very well known, he’s been the mayor of Providence, and the latest polls show him up and he has the most money. Bill Lynch, the former Democratic state chairman has been running second in the polls. Then you have the two anti-establishment candidates—a kid named David Segal who’s got the progressive Netroots-type folks and a businessman named Anthony Gemma. The latter was abysmal on the campaign trail the first few weeks; he had a bad launch but we will see how he does.
Have you been following any of the national coverage of the Rhode Island midterms?
The Boston Globe did a pretty good overview of the congressional race, because of Kennedy’s involvement. Other than that there hasn’t been a lot of national coverage yet. I think once the primary settles and if Loughlin can move some numbers, then there might be some attention. Put it this way, if the Republicans win this seat than they’re going to win the house. It’s like the last presidential election: The minute Virginia came in for Obama you knew it was over.
How has the local press handled the elections?
We are a one-paper state and the paper was very strong for many years. That’s no longer the case. They don’t have the people and they don’t have the “newshole.” They’re trying to do the best they can.
And nowadays if you want to do a campaign, as we’ve seen across the country, you can use social media to get in there. I think you do need TV at some point, but the fact that you’re not up with a thousand points a week doesn’t mean what it used to.
Are the newer candidates getting around the press through social media?
I think there is a group of ideological candidates who do not trust the press across the country. We haven’t see that too much here because it’s a small state and people tend to know each other. I think that there’s ways of getting around the press and that’s what you do with your television and your social media. But we haven’t seen the outright evasion like the Nevada situation here in Rhode Island.
What do you think of what you have seen this year?
I think it’s an interesting cycle. The Republicans want to nationalize these races and the Democrats are going to try to keep them local. The whole idea of what Brown did in Massachusetts is a paradigm for a lot of people. What Martha Coakley did wrong was not run ten mayor’s races.
Do you think Rhode Island Democrats will succeed in making it a local election?
They’re going to try like hell.