Indeed, Cicilline is expected to have a strong fundraising quarter, in part because of two fundraisers in recent weeks hosted by prominent Rhode Island Democrats. The first, held last month in Providence, was hosted by the Ocean State’s entire Congressional delegation, in addition to the state Senate president and state Speaker. This month, the delegation hosted a separate Capitol Hill event for the Congressman.
But the voters of Rhode Island aren’t necessarily ready to support Cicilline, who replaced the often-ridiculed but beloved former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D).
Just 17 percent of voters statewide approved of Cicilline’s job performance in March, near the peak of negative press reports about massive budget deficits that Cicilline left behind in Providence. Deficits are not uncommon in state and local governments, but Cicilline set himself up by characterizing the city’s finances as “excellent” during a debate last fall.
In a mid-May survey by Fleming & Associates, 23 percent of respondents gave the Congressman an excellent or good rating, while 63 percent gave him fair or poor marks. More alarming, perhaps, were prospective head-to-head matchups showing Cicilline trailing prospective Republican candidates Loughlin and Doherty.
Republicans may be optimistic locally, but from Washington, D.C., they see Rhode Island’s 1st district as a long shot that “could become competitive if the right pieces fall into place,” according to one GOP campaign staffer.
Gemma is one of those pieces. Conservatives hope Gemma sufficiently bloodies Cicilline in the state’s late primary, giving him little time to recover for a general election.
Cicilline beat Loughlin by just 6 points last fall. And the NRCC is paying some attention to the district, helping the state GOP improve microtargeting efforts and voter contact lists.
“Rep. David Cicilline’s transition from mayor of Providence to a Washington politician has been seamless,” NRCC spokesman Tory Mazzola said. “He left the city’s finances in chaos after misleading officials about the looming fiscal disaster.”
Gemma said he has learned a thing or two from his first run.
He would get in earlier this time, having entered the race last cycle less than three months before the primary, where he earned almost a quarter of the vote in a four-way contest. Gemma doesn’t want to give a timeline for his decision, but he said he has already met with his political team to “look into the 2012 cycle.”
“It doesn’t bother me, challenging a Democrat,” he said. “People know I’m for real now. They know I’m viable.”