Earlier this morning a new Morning Consult poll found that 48% of the 473 Rhode Islanders polled approved the job Gina Raimondo is doing as Governor, while 45% disapprove. This shows that there is a clear upswing in her popularity as her approval ratings are up compared to the 38% she was polling at during September 2016. It is important to note that during the 2014 election, Raimondo won with only 41% of the vote in a three-way race against Republican candidate Allan Fung and Moderate Robert Healey.
Raimondo is seen by the Democratic party elites as a rising star on the national scene for many reasons. These include her focus on business, adding 15,000 new jobs since the 2014 election and bringing the Rhode Island unemployment rate below the national average for the first time since 2005. Other reasons being she has a national fundraising network which helped her rake in 1.8 million to her campaign account last year according to Board of Election filings, and her RI Promise scholarship which seeks to provide two years of free college education to all Rhode Island students regardless of income. If this is passed in the General Assembly Rhode Island will be the first state to do this.
Although there are many things to highlight, there have also been many failures from the Raimondo administration that opponents will be emphasizing. I believe the most important of them all is the failure of the UHIP, Unified Health Infrastructure Project, benefit system which ultimately left two senior administrators to resign. If her opponent’s are smart, they will exploit this at every chance they get. I suspect Raimondo will be painted as a party elite, as many Democrats have been during the 2016 campaigns. Her opponent’s will most likely try to push the low-income, working class workers who collect these benefits away from her by using talking points such as her Husband being the richest man in Rhode Island, to make her seem disconnected from the working person and to have these voters feel disenfranchised. While low-income individuals were stuck standing standing in line for upwards to 6 hours for their benefits to be reinstated, I am sure Raimondo’s family was not worrying about they next time they will have money to eat. Another failure is the roll out of the Cooler and Warmer campaign to replace the current Rhode Island logo. I don’t believe there has been any public polls regarding this matter but basically everything about the Cooler and Warmer campaign was viewed negatively from the people I have had the opportunity to talk with. These include the slogan “Cooler and Warmer” being unclear, if your three word slogan needs to be explained it is not a good slogan. The state logo was also unclear and needed further explanation people weren’t sure was it was depicting, and the commercials that were being aired to promote this had footage included that was from Iceland, instead of the beautiful scenery from places like Narragansett and Newport. There are more failures that could be discussed but those are the major ones in my opinion.
Of some of the names being floated around as possible opponents, I believe the strongest candidate would be former Alex + Ani CEO Giovanni Feroce of the Republican Party. Although Rhode Island has been a solid blue state for a long time, Feroce has the chance to take advantage of some of the talking points Trump used on the campaign trail which resonated in parts of Rhode Island. He is a political outsider, has had a successful business career where Alex + Ani grew from a company with 23 employees and $4.5 million in annual revenue to having nearly 1,100 employees and annual revenue of $230 million in just three years under his watch. If Feroce could win all of the towns Trump won in 2016 and take some of the towns that he lost tightly such as Westerly, Warwick, and Tiverton he would have a shot a winning. The challenge would be flipping, or at least narrowing the gap, in the more urban areas of the state such as Providence and Pawtucket and other places such as North and South Kingston, Newport, Jamestown, and Barrington which overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton.
It will be interesting to see if there are any bold competitors on the Democratic side that will primary against Raimondo as the Democratic candidate will have the advantage in the general election. I believe somebody with an ideology similar to that of Bernie Sanders who recognizes the mistakes the Democratic party elites have made across the country will have a solid chance at winning. Ideally it would need to be somebody who is young, charismatic, and can relate with low-income and blue collar Rhode Islanders on a personal level as RI was once a major manufacturing hub in New England. It will be hard for a grass roots campaign to compete with the fundraising ability of the billionaire Raimondo’s.
Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know how you feel about the 2018 Governors race!