The second of five stories I’m writing from my New England trip is set in Providence, where a once-beloved mayor has become a fantastically unpopular incumbent congressman. Can David Cicilline hold a seat by drowning his Republican opponent in Ryan budget attacks?
Rhode Island Republicans are betting big on the anti-Cicilline, budget-revenge storyline. If Cicilline survives a primary challenge from businessman Anthony Gemma, he’ll face the Republican recruit, Brendan Doherty, who leads him by 16 points. Doherty was born across the border in Massachusetts, rising to become superintendent of the Rhode Island state police, ready with a story about how he stopped bureaucrats from trying to build a new $40 million building for $70 million—and how, after he intervened, he got it built for $27 million. Cicilline jokes with voters and zips from handshake to handshake. Doherty stands nearly a full foot taller than the Democrat and carries himself like a nail-chewing member of the Expendables.