2018 Gov’s Playbook: Who Has Momentum?

Monday, August 27, 2018

 

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Some of the top political experts weigh in on the final weeks of the Democratic and Republican primaries.

With just over two weeks to go until primary decision day, some of the candidates are going door-to-door and some took a four-day family vacation — Governor Gina Raimondo.

“Governor Raimondo has severely limited the public's ability to compare candidates by refusing to debate her opponents.  Mayor [Allan] Fung has done the same by agreeing only to a single, minor venue.  It's clear that both frontrunners fear giving legitimacy to their challengers by taking the stage with them during this primary season.  While it may be a smart move for each of the campaigns, denying the public full debates with all major candidates present just adds to voter cynicism and leaves many in the public without a substantial basis for comparison” said Val Endress, Professor of Political Commentary at Rhode Island College.


Raimondo and Fung Widely Criticized

In a guest MINDESETTER™ in GoLocalProv on Sunday, former GOP Executive Director Jeff Deckman, writes, “Think about the level of arrogance, hubris, self-absorbed egotism and entitlement that must be deeply embedded in an individual’s character that would lead them to take such a forceful stand against the people’s right to select their next Governor from an informed position. But it gets worse. If God forbid, both Gina and Allan win their primaries. That will mean the people of Rhode Island will most likely have the first gubernatorial election in their history where there will be no debates.”

Some say the lack of debates will have a chilling effect on turnout. No debates. No interest.

“Debates have become part of the democratic process for a reason: they focus the public's attention on the campaign in a meaningful way.  Those who listen or watch debates are more likely to seek additional information on the candidates and they are more likely to vote,” said Endress.  

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Raimondo refuses to debate Brown

June Speakman of Roger Williams University tells GoLocal, “As noted by others, without polling, it’s difficult to answer the “momentum” question. And none of these campaigns are garnering a huge amount of media attention.”

“That, plus the absence of debates, makes it difficult for voters to get excited one way or another about any of these races.  What we do see is a lot of old school grassroots voter contact activity---door-knocking, phone banking and direct mail.  The difference is that this activity is guided by data and targeted at receptive voters.  These activities may decide the outcome on September 12th, rather than grand forces like momentum, debates and television ads,” adds Speakman.

But, some believe all the momentum is with Raimondo. “Raimondo without question.....Brown doesn't have near the viability or the money to build interest. Dickinson just isn't well enough known to have a shot,” said Victor Profughi, political scientist and pollster.   

Republicans--its harder to make sense out of since there are so few of them likely to vote in the primary, but Fung would be my guess,” said Profughi.

 

Turnout — GOTV

If the progressives can match the massive campaign organization of Raimondo, the race could be competitive.

“The one unknown is perhaps the strength of the GOTV efforts of RI's progressives in the Democratic primary.  Both [Matt] Brown in the governor's race and [Aaron] Regunberg in the lieutenant governor's race, combined with the Trump effect on national politics, and the bungled RI Democratic endorsement process seems to have galvanized progressives in the state.  We've seen progressives make inroads in other states in earlier primaries, so there is some interest nationally to see if there is viability for statewide office here.  For that reason, there's always room for an upset in the Democratic gubernatorial race, but the odds are against it, particularly in the absence of campaign debates,” said Endress.

 

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Fung under fire for refusing to debate

Advantage Front Runners

Will the non-debaters be rewarded? There is a worry by many in the media and in public policy that Fung's and Raimondo's strategy of refusing to participate may payoff. 

Former GOP State Representative and now Independent candidate for Governor Joe Trillo has criticized both Raimondo and Fung, but had especially harsh words for Fung. 

"If ever there was an elitist attitude, this is it,” said Trillo.  “Allan Fung can’t win in a fair primary against his political opponents and he can’t win against Gina, another elitist, in the general election, and he knows it.  That’s precisely why he refused to debate his primary challengers live on the radio, yesterday,” said Trillo.

“He’s so afraid of forming an opinion that could hurt him, that he’s running his campaign on poll data only.  If the question polls well, he supports it.  If it doesn’t, he says nothing.”

"Breaking with the tradition of a robust schedule of campaign debates means that the gubernatorial race in Rhode Island is essentially frozen, money continues to flow to frontrunners, frontrunner status is maintained, and it becomes increasingly difficult for challengers to get a foothold," said Endress.

"Those with the most money can buy more ads, command more media attention, distribute more campaign literature, create more robust GOTV (get-out-the-vote) efforts,  and strengthen other aspects of the ground game," added Endress.

 

Related Slideshow: 2018 Governor’s Race Playbook - August 27, 2018

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Momentum: Flat

Patricia Morgan (R)

Wins:

Morgan's new messaging is that she is the stronger candidate to beat incumbent Democrat Gina Raimondo. "I enjoyed talking with @LoughlinRI1 and his listeners yesterday. Once I win the primary, I am well positioned to take on Gina. I have the history and record to win," Morgan Tweeted on Sunday.

Losses:

Morgan's campaign is focused on talk radio. Does AM talks still have the impact?

X-Factor: Morgan's argument is that Fung doesn't take tough positions and that she is the tougher candidate for the Democrats?

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Momentum:Flat

Allan Fung (R)

Wins:

Whether you agree or disagree with him or not, Fung is now "all-in" on the immigration issue.

Losses:

The refusal to debate his GOP opponents could come back and bite him in the General Election if he wins the primary. If Raimondo wins the Democratic primary, she then can refuse to debate Fung -- that would prove Fung's primary decision to be a huge tactical error.

X-Factor: Fung maybe making a massive error to gain a lot of press attention in the GOP debates. First, he could demonstrate that he is more transparent that Raimondo by debating. Second, he could generate a lot of earned media. 

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Momentum: Flat

Spencer Dickinson (D)

Wins:

Dickinson said he would fight to reverse the PawSox decision, "I said at the beginning that I figured we had about a 1% chance to save the team. But that’s okay with me. I’ve worked with worse odds than that. Make me your governor, and I’ll sit down with Larry Lucchino and we’ll have a coffee. He’ll call it an insurance policy in case Worcester doesn’t work out. I’ll call it starting over. How do I feel about it? Pretty optimistic. As I said, I’ve faced worse odds than that. And the people of Pawtucket deserve nothing less."

Realistic?

Losses:

N/A

X-Factors:  Can Dickinson improve name recognition in the final weeks?

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Momentum: Flat

Matt Brown (D)

Wins:

On Monday, he does a press call-in with Lincoln Chafee. The former Governor can be an effective attack dog for Brown against Raimondo.

Losses:

Where is Bernie? Why won't Sanders endorse Brown?

X-Factor:  Needs a big close to the primary. Where is it?

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Momentum: Flat

Joe Trillo (I)

Wins:

“I chose to run as an Independent for this very reason, the Republican Party is a sham and now their insidious game is playing for the public to see.  Do we really want a race between just Fung and Gina, two heads of the same coin who are terrified of debates and challengers?  I say, no,” said the never subtle Trillo.

Losses:

Needs to articulate how Rhode Island will be better under the Trillo administration.

X-Factor: Maybe needs to shift from Trump to McCain.

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Momentum: Down

Luis Daniel Muñoz (I)

Wins:

This weekend he went to Hope & Main in Warren, then to Pawtucket, and closed with Providence Folk Festival. He is meeting people.

Losses:

No money, no strategy, and no social media game.

X-Factor: We know Muñoz's view on a couple of issues, why not more?

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Momentum: Down

Gina Raimondo (D)

Wins: 

Must be confident. She went on a 4-day family vacation.

Losses:

195 traffic disaster this past week and then the effort by RIDOT to alleviate the problems reek of earlier Raimondo errors -- "Cooler and Warmer" and UHIP. Lack of planning and a narrative that demonstrates that she doesn't really care "I am not a traffic engineer."

X-Factor: She now owns all traffic on route I-195 through the election season.

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Momentum: Down

Giovanni Feroce (R)

Wins:

No press releases. No press events. 

Losses:

The former Benrus CEO, has had a difficult time raising money from his network. He has the second lowest amount of cash-on-hand. He has less than $700.

X-Factor: Needs a closing argument.

 
 

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