Nowhere to go but up

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With Easter behind us and MLB Opening Day today, it’s time to turn the page and start anew – not only for Christians (and those who do their praying at Fenway) but for the Rhode Island Republican party and for the Chafee administration.  Like the Red Sox, they’ve hit rock bottom and there’s nowhere to go but up.
The 2013 Red Sox will spend the year trying to erase any stain left by the brief Bobby Valentine era and the embarrassing 69-93 record of 2012.  Their marketing team is luring fans back to Fenway with $5.00 beer and free food in the hopes of reigniting a sellout streak.  With the exception of Alfredo Aceves—who gets the award for most likely to be arrested—this should a drama-free squad and hopefully the start of a season that stretches into October.
Back in Little Rhody, the RIGOP is going to need more than cheap booze and “Sweet Caroline” to get back in the game.  After another cycle of dismal results, it’s worth noting that the Sox’s record would make have made the RIGOP wildly successful, since their 2012 record was 11-102 in General Assembly races.  The recent chairman’s race turned into a benches-clearing brawl, splitting the State Central Committee right down the middle and creating the perception that the RIGOP literally can’t do anything well.
The botched count and recount was something that you’d expect at an elementary school student council vote, except that the children would have known that saying one thing and doing another does not instill faith among the voters.  Mark Smiley, a good guy and earnest Republican by any measure, now comes into office with all the challenges his predecessors have faced plus a perception problem that was not of his creation.  In a state where a two (or three?) party system might create some accountability and allow for more debate on critical issues, I can’t be the only one rooting for Mr. Smiley to unite the party enough to support some decent General Assembly candidates.
As for Governor Chafee, he must have skipped the day in Politics 101 when “don’t blame the media for your mistakes” was on the syllabus.  The members of Rhode Island’s mainstream political media are a tough but fair crowd and have cut Governor Chafee quite a bit of slack over the years.  There are some who have been almost too favorable, wearing their lefty hearts on their sleeves and not calling him out for alternating between waffling and incredible stubbornness across a wide array of issues from pension reform and government transparency to holiday trees and the EDC.  Whatever restraint they have demonstrated in the past is certainly going to be tested and they can all play a Mad Lib that starts out, “Chafee’s numbers are low because __________.  His most appalling gaffe was ____________.”  Note that two of the best, Ted Nesi and Ed Fitzpatrick, have already played.
The good news for all of us is that baseball is back and the long winter of 2012-13 is over.  It’s a long time until we’ll know whether the circus of the RIGOP Chairman’s race or Chafee’s blame game will have any bearing on the 2014 cycle, but their marketing teams have a lot of work to do to get the save.

Cara Cromwell is a public affairs consultant with more than twenty years experience managing issues campaigns for corporations, non-profits, associations, coalitions and candidates on both sides of the aisle.  An unaffiliated voter, serial ticket-splitter and enthusiastic Red Sox fan, she believes that in politics—and baseball—game changing action occurs in the middle, creating opportunity on the ball field  and compromise and coalition-building in the halls of power. Visit her blog, Straight Up The Middle, at http://straightupthemiddle.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter @cmcromwell.

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