Welcome to another edition of my weekend column – as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to email@example.com. For quick hits all week long, follow me on Twitter: @tednesi.
1. With 10 days left until the election, campaign season is entering the homestretch. Friday’s surprise news that national Republicans will invest $280,000 to boost Brendan Doherty, followed by national Democrats’ $315,000 counterpunch on behalf of David Cicilline, is evidence both sides still think they could win the 1st District race. By contrast, there’s no sign so far the national GOP will put its own money behind the long-shot bids of U.S. Senate hopeful Barry Hinckley or 2nd Congressional District challenger Michael Riley. It’s been a month since the September WPRI 12 poll showed Cicilline with a six-point lead over Doherty – did the debates and negative ads move any voters? What about Obama’s lousy debating in Denver? In the Senate race, did Hinckley’s strong debate performance Tuesday make an impact? Has Riley made any inroads against Jim Langevin in the relatively GOP-friendly 2nd? We’ll find out soon.
2. Across the border in Massachusetts, Democrats are growing more confident Democrat Elizabeth Warren will unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (of Wrentham). Less than two weeks out, polling averages show Warren leading by 6.8 points (PollTracker) and 5.7 points (RealClearPolitics). The two campaigns have already spent $50 million, a stunning amount of money when you consider the final result could be something as unsurprising as … Massachusetts voters electing a Democrat to Congress. Intriguingly, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowleythinks a Warren victory could doom John Kerry’s hopes of succeeding Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, because Brown would be the favorite in a special election to replace Kerry – unless, of course, Deval Patrick jumps in.
3. Voters in Providence will be asked the following when they reach Question 15 on their ballots this year: “Shall the qualifications for the director of the department of public property be a bachelor’s degree, or a minimum of five (5) years of experience in the field?” It seems a bit random – until you realize amending the city charter to change the requirements for the job would benefit a specific individual: Alan Sepe, who’s been serving as Providence’s “acting” director of public property since 1991, when Sepe was nominated for the job by Buddy Cianci, then left in place after the nomination was withdrawn due to his technical ineligibility. It’s only taken 21 years to make that official.
4. Organizers report more than 8,000 people attended last weekend’s Newport Food Truck Festival, which featured a delicious assortment of food trucks from around New England. Providence or Pawtucket should consider holding one of their own next year.
5. On TV and online, WPRI 12 is your source for all things Hurricane Sandy as the storm approaches. Nobody does a better forecast than my colleague Tony Petrarca and his team. Sandy is, of course, arriving at an inopportune time for local campaigns. A spokeswoman for David Cicilline said the congressman’s district office is monitoring the storm, and it’s possible his campaign will need to shift its event schedule next week. Brendan Doherty’s team has asked supporters to bring in their lawn signs ahead of the storm. The real question is, how long before Cicilline points out Paul Ryanwanted to cut $10 billion from disaster aid?
6. Not every employer in Rhode Island is hurting. Fidelity Investments – lured to the state in 1996 with $25 million and other tax breaks - now has 3,200 employees in Smithfield and another 200 open positions, Michael DiBiase, Fidelity’s senior vice president of government relations and public policy, told a Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce gathering this week.
7. Everyone knows Rhode Island isn’t a battleground state in 2012, but they may not realize is it’s almost never one: all but six of the 26 presidential elections since 1908 have been decided here by a double-digit margin. Only eight states have had less competition, according to Smart Politics. Rhode Island’s closest presidential race was a real squeaker in 1928, when Al Smith beat Herbert Hoover 50.2% to 49.6%. (Smith, a Democrat, was the first Roman Catholic nominated for president.) Another tight one was 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower beat Adlai Stevenson 51% to 49%, thus becoming the first Republican to win Rhode Island since Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The other close years were 1912 (Wilson, 39%-36%-22%), 1916 (Hughes, 51%-46%), 1972 (Nixon, 53%-47%) and 1984 (Reagan, 52%-48%).
8. A warm Rhode Island welcome to Craig Schwalb, who’s getting settled in at 630 WPRO after succeeding Paul Giammarco as program director in July. Schwalb arrives at Rhode Island’s venerable radio station from Sirius Satellite following tours of duty at WKRK-FM in Detroit, WNEW-FM in New York City and WRBZ-AM in Raleigh, N.C. WPRO has a rich local history that extends back to 1924, though the station didn’t go all-talk until 1989. Bonus fun fact: WPRI 12 was originally WPRO-TV when we went on the air in 1955.
9. Ross Douthat: “The current American story is one of polarization, with the two major parties sealed into their respective ideological bunkers, and stratification, with an elite that’s more isolated from the common life of the country it rules than at any time in recent history.”
10. It’s striking to me that politics is one of the few professions where experience isn’t seen as the advantage it clearly is. I don’t mean that in the sense of whether a long-serving official should stay in office – that’s case-by-case – but rather whether such a person understands the basic blocking and tackling of winning elections. First-time candidates sometimes think their ideas are so brilliant, and the incumbent is so clearly inept, that winning office should be a piece of cake – then are dumbfounded when it turns out their seasoned opponent is actually more adept at wooing voters. In any other industry that wouldn’t be a huge surprise, but people often forget a veteran politician likely knows something about how to run a successful campaign – only to remember when the veteran wins again. Politics is a skill, like anything else.
11. Thank you to the East Bay Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to speak this week at their annual awards dinner, which was held at the new restaurant Natalia’s in the Sky overlooking Mount Hope and Narragansett Bay in Bristol. (You could tell it was nearly Election Day because so many politicians were on hand.) And congratulations to RE/MAX River’s Edge Real Estate of Barrington, which won business of the year, and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Byrnes, who won citizen of the year.
12. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – Republican congressional candidate Sean Bielat and North Kingstown Sen. Dawson Hodgson. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Rhode Island’s housing problems and the push for Question 7 with Housing Works RI’s Nellie Gorbea and the Rhode Island Builders Association’s John Marcantonio. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or 6 a.m. on Fox). See you back here next Saturday morning.