Monday, September 27, 2010

Rhode Island Governor Race

Race of the Day

Rhode Island Governor

September 27, 2010
36 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (I)

As Republicans look forward to likely electoral gains coast to coast, the Ocean State appears to be somewhat immune to the threat, as the GOP candidate, to succeed moderately popular Republican Governor Don Carcieri, is likely to capture the bronze medal this year. Things are interesting enough for Rhode Island Republicans this year, that the party's primary victor for Lt. Governor immediately dropped out of the race and endorsed a frequent third party hippie candidate in his Lt. Governor bid against the incumbent Democrat.

Carcieri's two terms, and the fact that another Republican was Governor for two terms before him belie the fact that Rhode Island is one of the most strongly Democrat states in the country. With an open office up this year, it should be one of their more promising pickup opportunities, but instead looks like the job could very well go to a former Republican who is running as an Independent.

The Democrat nominee is State Treasuer Frank Caprio, who was ensured of his party's nomination when another more liberal state elected official dropped out of the race. When he was faced with that sort of potential primary, Caprio is reported to have talked to state Republicans about changing parties to run as their candidate. The Republican nominee, who was easily victorious in this month's primary is John Robitaille, a businessman who most recently served as a senior advisor to Carcieri.

Also in the race, is former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee. He was appointed to fill the seat of his later father John Chafee, a moderate but mostly loyal Republican. At that time, the younger Chafee was already a GOP candidate for his father's seat and he easily won the 2000 election over a Democrat opponent who was a good deal more conservative on social issues.

In Washington, Chafee was easily considered to be the most liberal Republican on Capitol Hill and often was a source of great frustration to his party. Still, he turned down entreaties to switch to the Democrats, and in 2006 ran for reelection with the strong support of national GOP groups, who had to spend heavily to help Chafee pull off a narrow primary victory over a more conservative opponent. While Chafee was considered the only Republican who was remotely capable of holding the seat for the GOP, he still lost under the national pro-Democrat mood in 2006. In returning to Rhode Island, Chafee was talked about as a potential 2010 Gubernatorial candidate, and the thinking was that he could likely win as the Republican candidate for that state office, having only lost because the state's voters wanted to send more Democrats to Congress.

Soon thereafter though, Chafee endorsed Barack Obama for President and made it clear he was done with the GOP forever. He launched an Independent bid for Governor and has since appeared a strong contender to win a three way election. While one poll from Rasmussen Reports in August showed Caprio surging to a small lead, their most recent survey now once again puts Chafee ahead by a scant three points. Robitaille, the Republican candidate trails both opponents by seven points and is just at 23% of the vote. Theoretically, a Republican should be able to take some advantage of a split liberal vote, but in a Rhode Island Gubernatorial race, it just may not be mattering much. Robitaille may be in the game if it were a two person race against either opponent, but it looks likely now that undecided voters will be deciding between Caprio and Chafee.

So, what is a Republican partisan to hope for here? I would not really be able to say who is more palatable to conservatives between the Dem Caprio and Chafee. It is interesting that both Caprio and Chafee could have both been the Republican nominee, had they wanted. In the battle of partisan red and blue totals, it is better for the GOP that Chafee wins and deprives the Democrats of an election, but Chafee is also ideologically distasteful and personally unpalatable to Republicans across the country, that many might just prefer to see him lose again. With voter discontent present among voters across the ideological divide this year, it could be beneficial for Chafee to have an I next to his name, and he represents the best chance this year for any Independent victory in a major race anywhere in the country.

As for me, if I were a Rhode Island voter, the only logical thing to do under these particular circumstances is to do what Independent and third party supporters often have to do in similar situations, and that is vote for my party's candidate.

Robitaille (I am not sure how to pronounce it) campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D, 21 R, 1 I
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 27 R, 1 I