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Both ends against the middle

May 26, 2010

One of the striking elements from yesterday’s WPRI, Channel 12, poll: just 11 percent of voters think Rhode Island is headed in the right direction, down from 13 percent in January. But 42 percent of respondents say the Democratic Party best shares their values (compared with 18 percent for the Tea Party movement, and just 17 percent for the Republican Party).

Pollster Joseph Fleming interprets the results as a warning sign for incumbents. Given the dour economy, it’s reasonable to expect a larger than usual amount of turnover in the General Assembly. Still, given how Democrat ideas locally outdraw Republican counterparts by better than 2-to-1, a larger realignment seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, points to the independent trend in RI as a positive harbinger for Lincoln Chafee’s campaign for governor:

It is one of only nine states in the country where independent and unaffiliated voters outnumber those of either major party.

That’s where Lincoln Chafee comes in. After serving one term in the U.S. Senate as a liberal Republican and then losing his seat to a Democratic challenger, Chafee is convinced this is the moment to seek the governorship under an independent banner.

The last time any state elected an independent governor was in 1998, when Minnesotans picked former wrestler Jesse Ventura and Maine voters reelected Angus King for a second term. Earlier in the 1990s, voters in Alaska and Connecticut elected independent governors. Few have come close since then.

But Chafee looks pretty strong so far.

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