Watching the WPRI debate between Congressman David Cicilline and Republican challenge Brendan Doherty, and after parsing the ads for each to date, I think that it’s obvious that this is a campaign about voting for a party (Cicilline’s Democrats) or voting for the person (Doherty on the character issue).
Mr. Cicilline seems to concede that he’s unpopular because of his misstatements about Providence’s finances but that he should be elected in order to stop the “radical” agenda of the Republicans, whose speaker controls the tempo of bills either introduced or dying in a committee.
Mr. Doherty asserts that he is his own man, that he’s not in lockstep with the Republican leaders, that he can do more for Rhode Island if the Republicans stay in control and that Mr. Cicilline’s “progressive” agenda is out of step with the middle class of Rhode Island.
Party vs. person. Which message wins?
That question, of course, can only be answered by you, the reader. If Mr. Doherty is right that character matters and that the congressman shouldn’t be rewarded for not telling the truth, he’ll be the victor. Mr. Cicilline’s message is that the Republicans are bad for Rhode Island, and he lumps his challenger into the same pot of Messrs. Romney, Ryan, et al.
So, no matter what his own missteps were, you need a Democrat in Congress to resist the excesses of the party likely to be in control.
I think Brendan Doherty has relied too much on “free” social security, Medicare and only modest changes like adding two months before access to these programs kick in for new enrollees. Masterfully, the Cicilline campaign has demonized the Republicans even when he was challenging his primary opponent, Mr. Gemma, by running ads against the GOP leadership.
During that time, the Doherty campaign was silent on the airwaves and allowed the congressman to gather a head wind. As of this writing, you have yet to see Mr. Doherty defining himself in paid media as a moderate who won’t chew up senior citizens for breakfast or tie the middle class worker to the railroad tracks! Only focusing on the character issue is a fatal flaw in his campaign’s strategy. He needs to define his stances on issues, not just depend on the fact that people think he’s a stand-up guy because of his past jobs.
If he hasn’t started defining his positions via paid media by the time you read this, two weeks before an election is almost too late to do so. The district was re-drawn to favor Democratic voters and with the presidential sweepstakes at issue, more and more Democrats will show up to vote. They have to be certain that their congressman isn’t a fat cat, who favors the rich.
Mr. Doherty isn’t the stereotype of those Republicans, but his moderation is one of the best-kept secrets in this election. If he is to win he needs to define himself on key issues, not just hack away on Mr. Cicilline’s lack of truth-telling. When you read this, you’ll know whether he has refined his message of being for something as opposed to being against bad character. His election depends on it.