Dee from the Desk: The GOP endorsement and why it doesn’t matter

By Dee DeQuattro

There is no surprise that the two Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, Allan Fung and Ken Block, are both trying to flex their Republican muscles and prove that they are more Republican then the other guy. It is politics 101; both candidates are trying to play to the base of the party however in Rhode Island courting the Republican Party may not actually matter.

Let me draw your attention to the Republican Primary of 2002; James Bennett was the Republican favorite carrying the party’s endorsement. In the general election Don Carcieri barreled over him grabbing almost 67% of the vote to Bennett’s meager 33%. Carcieri went on to be the next Governor of Rhode Island and served in the office for the next eight years.

So while both sides are working internally in the party to show off their Republican muscles and blame the other side for not being Republican enough, ultimately it may not actually matter. In the end it may actually come back to haunt the candidates in the statewide general election since it has been the Democratic strategy for the past few years to demonize Republicans, for, well, being Republicans.

Besides, believe it or not, there are a heck of a lot more Republicans in Rhode Island than there are party insiders. Most of the run of the mill Republicans in Rhode Island are not even in tune with the “mainstream” party and the decisions within. They simply go out and vote for who they think will be the best candidate based on the messaging they have seen.

This brings me to my next point, while the endorsement of the party may not sway the opinion of many voters an endorsement from a popular Republican like former gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille just might. Robitaille was very popular among Republicans statewide, not just party insiders. If he were to come forward and make a public endorsement of either Block or Fung, it may sway some Republican Primary voters who were hoping that Robitaille would run again.

Unfortunately, this is probably not going to happen. Robitaille has stayed out of the fray when it comes to the Republican primary. While he has met with both candidates and is contacted by Republicans on both sides he has not made a public statement or an endorsement and it is unlikely that he will, at least before the primary. As a faithful Republican Robitaille will likely support whatever candidate emerges from the Republican primary but until then, mum seems to be the word.

You can’t blame the guy. There is obviously some tension between he and the other candidates. First of all, many Republicans point the finger at Block’s six percent of the vote as a Moderate for upsetting the election in 2010. They say without Block in the race Robitaille would have gotten those votes and would have beaten Lincoln Chafee. Meanwhile, some insiders and Robitaille enthusiasts say Fung never came across as the biggest Robitaille supporter. While many Republicans teamed up on “lit drops” during the 2010 election, Fung always sort of did his own thing. Also some of these Republicans point the finger at Fung accusing him secretly of supporting Frank Caprio for Governor in 2010, while the allegations may be unfounded they still “fighting words” inside the party. For the record, Fung publically supported Robitaille in 2010.

With or without Robitaille’s endorsements both candidates need to start making a play for mainstream Rhode Islanders’ votes over the two hundred or so individuals that happen to hold the esteemed position of “party delegate” because truthfully if anything can be taken from the 2002 primary, the party endorsement does not go that far.

Follow me on twitter: @deedequattro

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.