There’s a storm brewing in Rhode Island, where Democratic infighting is getting ugly. The latest? A scandal breaks out as President Obama refuses to endorse the Democratic candidate in a three way race for governor.
Rhode Island’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee said President Obama can “shove” his endorsement amid an ugly intraparty squabble that has Democrats buzzing that the commander in chief is showing too little loyalty to his own party.
Obama, showing deference to Republican-turned-independent Lincoln Chafee, is refusing to endorse Democrat Frank Caprio, even as he travels to the smallest state to do a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“He can take his endorsement and really shove it as far as I’m concerned,” Caprio said on WPRO radio, according to an account on the Providence Journal’s Website.
There had been behind-the-scenes activity to try to get the president to endorse Caprio — or at least appear with him while in Rhode Island.
But Obama, who won a cross-party endorsement from Chafee in the 2008 presidential campaign, has made clear he doesn’t intend to put his thumb on the scale for Caprio in one of the few states where his endorsement might benefit a Democrat this year.
Two sources familiar with Rhode Island politics told POLITICO that Chafee is benefiting from his 2008 endorsement of Obama’s presidential bid and Caprio’s suffering for having been in Hillary Clinton’s camp in the primary that year. Caprio hasn’t even been invited to join Obama at public events, sources said.
“My understanding is that Obama is not looking to endorse Caprio and by including him in any events would give that indication or force him to actually say where he stands on that issue,” one source told POLITICO. “I have also heard that Caprio is upset that the DCCC did it’s big Rhode Island event at the home of a family who are very vocal and active supporters of Chafee. In many circles in Rhode Island, Chafee is seen as more of a Dem and a progressive than Caprio, who people often joke is a Republican in Democrats’ clothing.”
But it turns out this may in fact be a political ploy pushed by that “Republican in Democrats’ clothing” himself, to distance himself from the president and win over the centerist votes.
Considering that last Friday’s Ramussen poll showed Republican John Robitaille and Caprio neck and neck, it’s possible this was a calculated effort by Caprio to win the affections of center-right voters who are sour on Obama – unlike Chafee, Caprio isn’t known for spouting off without considering his words’ effects in advance.
It’s worth noting, too, that while Obama’s popularity has taken a hit among Rhode Islanders, his favorable rating among Democrats was still at 70% in our latest WPRI poll last month. Get ready for another round of is-Caprio-really-a-Democrat stories.
Cable news has already started discussing the story, according to my Twitter feed, and it’s a headline on The Washington Post’s site, too. It’s hard for me to see how this helps Caprio in the last eight days of the campaign, but I guess you never know.
If nothing else, telling your party leader and sitting president to “shove it” definitely gets you some play in the media.