Raimondo looks to broaden her base heading into 2013

Dec 9, 2012

Why would a freshly minted political star who has already banked more than $1 million in campaign fundraising stage a $25-per-person (suggested) football-watch event at a barbecue-burger joint in Providence’s Jewelry District on a Monday night in December?

If you’re state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, the answer probably has to do with expanding her base of support in the run-up to the 2014 gubernatorial race.

Raimondo offered a powerful example of political leadership in leading the push for last year’s landmark pension overhaul. The former Rhodes scholar and venture capitalist-turned-political phenom has a killer network of national contacts. Raimondo is a media darling. But the presumptive candidate still has to close the deal in a Democratic primary if she’s going to have a shot of vaulting into the governor’s office in 2014.

So the “Food, Friends and Monday Night Football” get-together tomorrow evening (December 10) at Rick’s Roadhouse offers an opportunity for Raimondo to expand her contact list beyond the realm of usual suspects. It won’t be surprising if this is just one in a series of future events meant to build Raimondo’s regular-person profile outside Rhode Island’s gang of 500 political obsessives.

There can still be surprises, of course, on the way to November 2014 (who, for example, expected former AG Patrick Lynch to fold his tent so early in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign?). Yet if “Raimondo represents the biggest threat” to Governor Lincoln Chafee’s re-election, as ProJo political columnists Ed Fitzpatrick writes today, then a Democratic primary marks one the biggest uncertainties for Raimondo. Some Democratic observers already refer to it as a “trap primary” for the treasurer.

It’s not hard to see why: Democratic primaries favor liberal candidates,  and a large part of the labor movement remains angry with Raimondo over the pension overhaul. It’s also true that Raimondo (like one of her potential gubernatorial rivals, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras) performed better among Republicans than Democrats in a WPRI-TV poll released in October.

Raimondo’s predecessor, Frank Caprio, had an enviable war chest when he ran for governor in 2010. There were questions back then about whether Caprio would change his Democratic affiliation to bolster his chances. He didn’t, and Caprio’s support among Dems splintered even before a controversial remark directed at President Obama sealed his third-place finish in a four-way field.

So with a bit less than two years until Rhode Island’s next gubernatorial election, Gina Raimondo remains a formidable figure, albeit one facing a challenging political puzzle.

UPDATE: Protest

Paul Valletta, president of the Cranston firefighters’ union, tells WPRI’s Tim White that his members may be joined by other firefighters in protesting Raimondo’s even tonight.