The Rhode Island Republican Party’s reputation for ineptitude is, by any reasonable measure, richly deserved.
Sure, the party held the governor’s office for much of the last two decades. But no longer. Indeed, it doesn’t claim a single statewide post at the moment.
Its presence in the General Assembly has long been tiny. Its fundraising is anemic. And the GOP’s hapless image only compounds the problem — making it difficult to attract the money and solid candidates that could resurrect the brand.
“People don’t trust in the ability of the Republican Party to succeed,” says former Rhode Island Republican Party chairman Giovanni Cicione, “and that’s that.”
But listen closely and you’ll hear some hope, in conservative circles, for a more professional operation. Hope, even, for a revolution.
Kenneth McKay IV, the charismatic political strategist who ran Donald Carcieri’s successful gubernatorial campaigns and later served as chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, has come home to revive Rhode Island’s moribund GOP. And he’s got a plan.
I dare say there are some opportunities on the federal level in 2012.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, an inflammatory attacker of the Tea Party movement and Republicans, has a lot of money in the bank but doesn’t have a personal connection with the voters; Whitehouse could be vulnerable if the right candidate (such as former Governer Donald Carcieri or Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian) gets in the race. The other Democratic Senator, Jack Reed, is invulnerable and will be Senator for life barring a Weiner-like scandal.
Former Providence Mayor David Cicilline, now Congressman, is very vulnerable due to the mess he left behind in Providence and his “success” in hiding the scope of the problem until he left office and was elected to Congress. There are two good Republican candidates, Brendan Doherty (former Superintend of the state police) and John Loughlin, who ran a good campaign against Cicilline last fall.
On the state level, it seems nearly impossible for Republicans to gain traction in the legislature due, in substantial part, to the lock the unions have on the state. As to statewide offices, Linc Chafee (“Independent”) is vulnerable, but that’s in four years.
So hope springs eternal for Republicans in Rhode Island. The Whitehouse and Cicilline races will be a focus of this blog in 2012, so let’s all join hands and chant “Yes we can.”