Don Roach: Brendan Doherty Needs to Up His Game
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The standard bearer of the ABC (Anybody But Cicilline) coalition, Brendan Doherty, needs to up his game. On a recent WPRI Newsmakers show, his performance was uneven. First, Brendan Doherty is not a politico, he’s a political novice. In my opinion, that’s what’s good about him versus the uber-politician Cicilline. From his Newsmakers performance, Doherty has a personal style that will play well with Rhode Islanders because he’s not Whitehouse stuffy and certainly not Cicilline polished. He comes off as someone who is real and Rhode Island at heart.
I can’t underscore how much a difference that is from our current Congressman. Congressman Cicilline comes off as aloof and elitist – it’s almost as if every time Cicilline speaks in the back of his mind he’s laughing at the fact that the people of Rhode Island believe his bologna. “Republicans are working to undermine the middle class and get rid of your medicare benefits” is what he’s saying publicly but I wonder if he’s not really saying “Ha ha ha! I cause a category five fiscal hurricane in Providence and you jokers are going to elect me to a second term. Suckas!”
You don’t get that same impression from Doherty. Instead, what we saw on Newsmakers was a rookie politician making a number of rookie mistakes that were he facing an opponent not as vulnerable as Cicilline might prove fatal.
A conservative or not?
In my opinion, Brendan Doherty is not really a conservative. On Newsmakers he said he was but I’m not really buying it. Yes, he’s pro-life but contrary to popular belief being pro-life does not automatically make you conservative. Yes, he mentioned “rebooting America” by putting all budget items “on the table” for review. However, Doherty is a moderate.
He spent most of the program and I assume will spend much of the next few months talking to Rhode Islanders about bi-partisan solutions and if asked for off the cuff remarks on everyday issues, he’ll seem more moderate than his Republican brethren.
For example, I have discussed the not so convincing arguments surrounding in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. I’ve said many times, that if these students receive an education what will they be able to do with it after graduation seeing as though they cannot work in the country legally? When asked about illegal immigration, Doherty hesitated and talked about the difficulty of the issue and understanding the situation. He then went on to talk about people who were here illegally and selling drugs, etc. But, I think his first response, where he paused is the telling one. He’s genuinely concerned about the issue, but I think he was trying to figure out how to stay on message while not coming off as cold hearted.
If you get a chance, watch his performance and see how a number of times he makes similar hesitation then message bullet point statements. Again, this isn’t a bad thing for a Rhode Island Republican to be moderate on these issues, but Doherty, in my mind, is most definitely not a conservative.
That won’t hurt him against Cicilline at all, and it should be fun to watch Cicilline try to paint him as a cookie cut conservative. Good luck!
Doherty needs a consistent message
Doherty gaffed most significantly when talking about the Bush tax cuts. He stated he wouldn’t extend them at first. Then it seemed like he didn’t understand their significance. Finally, he stated that he would agree to temporarily extending them giving the Congress coming in 2013 the opportunity to come up with a bipartisan agreement. Doherty has been in the congressional race for months, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he should have been able to address this question easily without hesitation, backtracking, or stumbling as he did.
That concerns me and I am sure will concern voters if this continues. Why is it a concern? The Bush tax cuts are one of the significant issues facing congress and it’s an issue Doherty needs to have an answer to so that he can share what he’ll do in Congress versus the man currently holding the seat. Rhode Islanders need to trust that Doherty can take a position and articulate it to the masses in order to get their buy-in or in most cases lead them to where he believes we should go.
He didn’t do a good job of that on Newsmakers and if his performance there is an indication of his future ability, it’s not a good sign. But then again, political neophytes generally get better and my hope is he does as well.
If he doesn’t, Cicilline is going to eat him alive and all the money in the world won’t save him. It’s time for the Colonel to step up his game and hopefully those around him won’t sugarcoat his performance. Nothing’s worse than a bunch of sycophants chanting your praise when what’s needed is a dose of sober reality.
Doherty has some qualities that are going to be appealing to Rhode Islanders. What he needs now is to become more polished and consistent on issues facing the state so that his highlights aren’t lost amongst an inability to present a clear and appealing message.
Don Roach is a member of the RI Young Republicans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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