The Elderly: Cicilline’s Only Hope?

Monday, April 25, 2011


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In the same week that David Cicilline’s record as mayor of Providence took yet another hit, the freshman Congressman essentially went back on the campaign trail using what some are calling the only strategy he has left if he hopes to hold on to his seat in 2012: His relationship with the elderly.

Cicilline, whose 17 percent approval rating in last month’s Brown University poll made him the least popular politician in the state, launched his Congressional "Series For Seniors" last Tuesday, a day before a City Council report blasted the former mayor for his handling of the city’s finances.

Strategy: Run Against Extreme Agenda

The goal for the series, according to a press release, is to discuss “the effects of the Republican budget on Medicare and Medicaid. Under the Republican budget, tax breaks for millionaires would be increased while the Medicare guarantee for seniors would end and support for seniors in nursing homes, disabled individuals, and low-income children who depend on Medicaid would be cut.”

Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said Cicilline’s strategy moving forward will likely be to reach out to his base and criticize the Republican agenda nationally.

“His strategy will be to run against Republicans for the way they want to change Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” West said. “They are pursuing an extreme agenda and he will appeal to seniors, women and minorities.”

West noted that his Republican opponent last year, John Loughlin, recently announced he would be returning to serve in Iraq, which could count out one challenger. Loughlin, who has not decided whether he’ll run again, has said he’ll be back in enough time should he choose to make a run.

Will The Elderly Be Enough?

Quest Research Pollster Victor Profughi said Cicilline is clearly trying to solidify his base by reaching out to the elderly, something he did successfully in his campaign against Loughlin. But with Providence’s dire financial situation still in the news, Profughi said Cicilline faces an uphill battle.

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“At this point the Providence financial situation looks like a killer, but the election is still months away,” he said.

Profughi said Cicilline was making the right move strategically, but it might not be enough.

“The first rule of reelection politics is to solidify your base, and that is what Cicilline appears to be doing as he reaches out to seniors,” Profughi said. “Although they are a very important voting group in the First District, it is unlikely that alone they can turn around his low ratings or the Providence approval rating.”

Still Has Democratic Support

Despite the low approval numbers and the recent City Council report, Cicilline still has plenty of support from Rhode Island’s Democratic Party. On Friday, State Democratic Chairman Ed Pacheco said he has not heard from anyone in the national party about backing away from the Congressman and looks forward to working to get him reelected in 2012.

“Democrats worked hard to get Congressman Cicilline elected last year and as the incumbent, they’ll work hard to keep him in office in 2012,” Pacheco said.

And he’ll always have the elderly.

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