Okay, so Gina Raimondo is a fundraising machine. In 2012 she raised over $900K and only spent a little over $80,000. Not too shabby. The girl's got potential but that doesn't mean she is not in trouble during a Democratic primary.
Primaries are all about: voter turnout. Unfortunately for Raimondo voter turnout for Rhode Islanders…during primaries is not so hot.
Just a word about voter turnout. Rhode Island has very low primary turnout. In the 2012 primary only 12.5% of voters turned out even though there was a divisive primary in Congressional District 1 between Congressman Cicilline and businessman Anthony Gemma. In 2010 there was a primary turnout of 13% and 2008 Rhode Island had a very low turnout of just under 10%. In 2006 primary turnout was impressive with a little over 20% turning out. Nonetheless, the numbers are pretty grim.
The General Election usually brings more than double the amount of voters to the polls than the primary. Which half of the voters turn out during the primary makes all the difference for the candidates.
Unfortunately for Raimondo, her most likely opponent Angel Taveras is very good when it comes to voter turnout.
Taveras has been there, done that… and he has done it more than once. While Raimondo won the 2010 election with over 60% of the vote she has never fought her way through a divisive primary. On the other hand, Taveras has. In 2010 Taveras got 49% of the vote in a FOUR way Democratic primary. He blew the others out of the water. In the General Election he beat Independent Jon Scott with $82% of the vote.
Not to mention the sweeping success of Central Falls Mayor James Diossa is in part due to Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Diossa worked closely with the Taveras team and deployed Taveras's ‘Get Out the Vote' tactics on primary day and Election Day. Diossa took 59% of the vote in the four way primary and on the day of the special election Diossa had a decisive victory of 62%.
In a primary between Raimondo and Taveras, Raimondo may have the money but Taveras has the ground game. While Raimondo could buy all the T.V. ads she wants, on the day of the primary it will come down to ground game.
Taveras who had a little over $400,000 in his coffers right now suffers the biggest disadvantage when it comes to the size of the "political arena." Taveras plays well in Providence, his guy played well in Central Falls, but what does that mean for the rest of the state?
If Taveras has a heavy voter turnout in Providence and Central Falls it may be enough to counter Raimondo's statewide popularity but there will still be a need for the Providence Mayor to gain traction in other communities. Perhaps Pawtucket would be a good stomping ground?
Taveras has not "played" on the statewide stage while Raimondo has. Raimondo has ran a statewide campaign and she is starting to put people with experience in the statewide arena in place for her next campaign IE: Andrew Roos, former Campaign Manager for Myrth York.
Don't be fooled though: Taveras has J.R. Pagliarini and Pagliarini is no joke either when it comes to statewide politics. He led Gov. Chafee's campaign for part of the 2010 election and he knows the players. It is unclear what Pagliarini does if the Governor's race becomes a showdown between Chafee and Taveras but considering that Pagliarini actually works as a senior adviser to Taveras it is likely his loyalties will stay with his current boss. Another plus for Pagliarini is that he is more current on the RI political scene then Roos. Roos campaigned for Myrth York over a decade ago, Pagliarini was in the RI political game as recently as the 2010 election. Still, Roos is a smart guy and knows politics.
Meanwhile let's not forget the wildcard: Ernie Almonte. Almonte does not have the funding that Taveras and Raimondo have and doesn't have the "political prominence" but as things heat up we will likely hear more from him.
Almonte may split the vote with Raimondo thus handing the election to Taveras. Taveras is a candidate that will get the Latino community excited, a group that doesn't usually have the best voter turnout. If Taveras can turn out the Latino community ahe may have a distinct edge over his opponents. Aside from that, some more conservative Democrats like Taveras, problem is the more conservative types also seem to like Raimondo and Almonte.
Raimondo will not play well with unions because of pension reform and even with her beefed up campaign coffer she is not likely to gain too much traction with these groups who are likely to favor Taveras. Many union members deem Taveras to have been "fair" while making tough cuts.
Unions present a major issue for Raimondo. Union members turn out to vote, especially when they are MAD. Union members are still raw over pension reform so it is unlikely they will be turning out to vote for Raimondo but they will be more than happy to vote against her. While Gov. Chafee has made efforts to heal some of the wounds with the unions, Raimondo has stood strong behind pension reform saying she would rather see it decided in court than to continue to discuss the plan with union leaders.
Raimondo needs the beefed up campaign account in order to overcome the obstacles of Taveras's experience in GOTV efforts and her struggles with union support. Either way it is unlikely that the money will be able to ‘buy' the primary and Raimondo knows it.
Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master's degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.