By Carole on Oct 25, 2010
In an election cycle that has Democratic candidates running as far as they can from an unpopular president, Rhode Island's Democratic gubernatorial candidate made a sure to go viral comment today when he didn't get President Barack Obama's endorsement. Democrat Frank Caprio told a local radio station, "He can take his endorsement and really shove it" and went on to criticize Mr. Obama for ignoring Rhode Island's recent floods and "treating us like an ATM machine." So was this a real snub of a fellow Democrat or a well-orchestrated plan to help both Mr. Caprio and the president?
Shortly after the "shove it" quote started spreading, a "senior Democrat who's working to elect Democrats across the country but, wouldn't speak for attribution" told CNN the White House's non-endorsement of Mr. Caprio was "sloppy and unprofessional" and was made "entirely out of a sense of loyalty to [Republican-turned-independent] Lincoln Chafee". Mr. Chafee who endorsed Candidate Obama in 2008 is running against Mr. Caprio. (source)
Of course one could believe that Mr. Caprio and that unidentified 'senior Democrat' are both honestly upset with the way Mr. Obama is approaching the Rhode Island gubernatorial race and decided to use scathing language against their de facto party leader, not to mention the president of the United States. But more likely we are witnessing some rather clumsy political theatre.
With President Obama's job approval ratings at an all time low, his endorsement is more of a hindrance than a help to most candidates. Voter anger against the Obama agenda is the accepted narrative of virtually all campaigns this year so what better way for a Democrat to distance himself from that brand than by using vulgar language against the president? And with an election that will, according to all indications, dramatically change the makeup of Congress; Mr. Obama needs to be seen doing something, anything, that even remotely appears bipartisan if he has any hope of re-election in 2012. What better way for him to encourage that perception than to be seen taking heat for showing loyalty to someone who once sat 'across the aisle'?
And just in case the media is too slow to pick up on the performance art propaganda, there's that unidentified 'senior Democrat' to pound the message home.
Meanwhile back in reality, Mr. Caprio is trailing Mr. Cafee by 7 points (35% - 28%) according to the latest poll of likely voters. Republican John Robitaille is just behind them both with 25% support.
If Mr. Caprio's 'shove it stunt' gets a few more Rhode Island voters thinking of the Obama connections to both he and Mr. Chafee, Mr. Robitaille may just have a chance.
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