Barack Obama, Scott Brown and Michael Steele all will be in Rhode Island today, campaigning for competing candidates in the RI-01 District (my home district, by the way).

Obama is flying in for an elaborately catered $7500 per plate fundraiser (menu here) for Providence Mayor David Cicilline, who is the Democratic nominee. 

Ironically, the Democrats are using Plantations Caterering of Newport, even though there is a Democratic Party inspired referendum on the ballot next week to remove “Plantations” from Rhode Island’s official name because it supposedly is racist.

Brown will be in Rhode Island campaigning with John Loughlin, the Republican candidate opposing Cicilline.  Loughlin is the Republican Minority Whip in the RI House of Representatives, and served 26 years (most of the time full-time) in the Rhode Island National Guard as a helicopter pilot and public affairs officer, including an active duty tour flying helicopters in Bosnia.

Loughlin is having a more scaled down fundraiser

For $250, Loughlin supporters can enjoy chicken and tuna salad sandwiches made by the women of the East Side Republicans.  Tara Pinsky, 39, who says she’s never hosted a political event before, is also making chocolate chip cookies.

Meanwhile, Steele’s Fire Pelosi bus tour will be in Rhode Island the same day, and Steele will attend some events with Brown and Loughlin.

Why all this trouble over a district in the most pro-Obama state (as of 2008) in the country, for a seat held seemingly forever by Patrick Kennedy?

In case you didn’t know it (meaning you don’t read this blog very often), the Loughlin-Cicilline has gone from a runaway for Cicilline based on his name recognition, to a dog fight in which the latest poll shows a dead heat. 

David Freddoso is calling it the Miracle in RI-01, and Jack Fowler at NRO describes Cicilline’s mounting problems:

Now, about Cicilline: He is a piece of work, but has gotten a couple of much-needed black eyes in recent weeks. Last week, Loughlin, pushing a wheelbarrow filled with $20,000, held a press conference attacking the mayor, who, in violation of city law, took in that amount in excessive pay since 2006.

Meanwhile: The local ABC affiliate is reporting that Cicilline’s top aides received mucho extra vacation time, in violation of city ordinances, costing Providence hundreds of thousands of dollars. Video here.

And: WPRI-TV reported last night that the city auditor has issued a report claiming that millions in municipal reserve funds have been misappropriated, while pension contributions are in arrears. Video here.

Oh yeah: The Providence Journal reported last year that an investigation by the accounting firm KMPG

. . . explored four instances in the past two years in which City Tax Collector Robert P. Ceprano alleges that the mayor’s aides pressured him to perform tax favors for friends and/or campaign contributors of the mayor’s.

Mayor Cicilline acknowledged “advocating” for those taxpayers, not because he knew them or they contributed to his campaigns but “based upon what he determined to be either a mistake by the city, or an ‘honest’ mistake on the part of the taxpayer,” the report said.

Part of this byzantine story includes how the Cicilline’s now-incarcerated lawyer/brother passed bad checks to cover delinquent taxpayers facing home foreclosures — seemingly with the knowledge of his mayoral brother.

Cicilline has run a typical DCCC campaign, holding what I’ve dubbed the “Let’s Scare Grandma Tour” of senior citizen centers falsely suggesting that seniors will lose their checks.

Loughlin has had to conserve resources, as Cicilline has run through almost $1.5 million.  Loughlin, by contrast, has spent one-third that amount and has conserved resources for the final week.  According to The Providence Journal, Loughlin still had $114,000 in the bank on Oct. 13, compared with Cicilline’s $205,976

Cicilline’s name recognition advantage has lessened as a result of several debates.  If Loughlin can hit the airwaves this week, he can overcome the name-recognition problem.

The district is heavily Democratic, but Rhode Island has a long history of electing Republicans to statewide office (although all the congressional and Senate seats now are Democratic). 

I think Cicilline still has an edge based on name recognition and voter registration, but that edge is not huge in this election cycle, and if Loughlin can muster the resources for a late push, this really could be the Miracle in RI-01.

You can donate to Loughlin here.

Update:  To get a sense of the mood in the district, The Providence Journal asked readers to comment on “If you could talk to President Obama on Monday, what would you tell him about Rhode Island’s needs?”

Read the comments and you will see that voters are pretty well fed up (even the ones who still support him are upset). Here are a few samples:

I would tell him that despite all the negative mumblings I always hear about how bad the “other” party is (i.e., Republicans), and how horrible they have left things, I live in a state that Democrats have controlled and ruled for decades, and our state couldn’t be in more dire straits.

You couldn’t be bothered when our homes were being destroyed during the flood, and now you care about our needs? Respectfully, sir, get back on the plane and out of my state!

We DON’T want Obamacare!

I would respectfully ask him to resign forthwith.

AND, via Drudge, Obama’s refusal to endorse the Democratic candidate for Governor Frank Caprio (because Linc Chaffee an early Obama supporter is running on the Independent line), has caused Caprio (who currently is the state Treasurer) to declare:

“He can take his endorsement and really shove it as far as I’m concerned.”

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Related Posts:
Rhode Island Dem Launches “Let’s Scare Grandma” Tour
The Patrick Kennedy Seat Is In Play Again
Now The Patches Bad News

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