On the surface, the latest WPRI-TV/Providence Journal poll might seem like a clear win for Gina Raimondo, since she leads her closest Democratic primary rival, Angel Taveras by five points, 32 percent to 27 percent, with Clay Pell (26 percent) right behind Taveras.
Yet Raimondo's lead is barely larger than the 4.38 percent margin of error in the poll, and 13 percent of voters remain undecided with just under three weeks to go until the September 9 primary.
Raimondo has gained ground since the last WPRI-ProJo poll, and certainly any of the candidates would prefer to be in the lead. Raimondo campaign manager Eric Hyers says the results are a sign that Raimondo's message is taking hold -- and growing support for among Democrats is a positive signal.
"Rhode Island is struggling with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and Gina's plan to bring back good jobs, especially manufacturing jobs, is resonating," Hyers says in a statement. "While Mayor Taveras continues to run a nasty smear campaign against Gina, voters aren't buying it and now his campaign is flailing. Gina will be a governor who gets people back to work and grows our economy in a way that doesn't leave anyone behind."
Yet Taveras remains in contention despite being seriously outspent in the race by Raimondo and Pell. And it's worth remembering after months and months of campaigningt hat none of the top candidates have shown themselves capable of running away with the race -- or even hitting 40 percent of support in polls.
"After being outspent 2 to 1 by both our opponents, we are confident that in the last three weeks we will be able to let voters know of the clear choice in this election," says Taveras spokeswoman Dawn Bergantino. "Our Wall Street-backed Treasurer has spent more than a month and close to a million dollars running attack ads trying to distract from her own record, but has not broken away from the pack."
In fact, the biggest winner of the latest poll might be Clay Pell, who made up a lot of ground after an inauspicious start to his campaign. His worst-case scenario looks like a respectable Democratic primary finish that would bode well for his political future.
Pell's campaign manager, Devin Driscoll, says, "Our campaign has momentum moving into the last days of this race for one simple reason -- we've got a real plan to get our state back on course, with new ideas and a fresh perspective to the long-standing challenges faced by Rhode Island. Over the final three weeks, Team Pell is going to double down on what brought us to this point: a positive, campaign of ideas with a forward-looking plan to make Rhode Island ready for tomorrow."
Although the primary election is drawing inexorably closer, the latest WPRI/ProJo poll bears some relation to the previous ones, particularly in how pollster Joseph Fleming told the Journal that the race remains wide open. Raimondo, Taveras, and Pell each have a chance of winning, so hang on for a wild ride on the way to September 9.