Gay Marriage: Winning by Losing, or Something
[A] closer reading of the election reveals a more nuanced outlook — one in which same-sex marriage could have a better shot of passing the Senate in 2013 than widely recognized.
The outlook remains murky, to be sure, even for close observers of that chamber. But consider the following:
– Although McCaffrey beat Pisaturo with 53.3 percent of the vote, the margin dividing them (226 votes) was relatively close for an incumbent with a big war chest who hadn’t faced a challenger in some time.
So does McCaffrey, a potential sucessor to Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, want to face another such challenge? (He didn’t return a call seeking comment.) Pisaturo says she didn’t present herself as a single-issue candidate, yet part of the reason for backing her would fade away if the Senate backed same-sex marriage….
For her part, Pisaturo declines to make any predictions about the fate in the Senate of same-sex marriage legislation. She says it’s too early to know whether she’ll run again in 2014. (Pisaturo says, too, that jobs and the economy, and changing the culture of the Statehouse, were bigger issues in her campaign than same-sex marriage.).
The battleground is in the primary, and Donnis’ observation that the pressure felt by McCaffrey this time around may affect his decision to block any such vote in the Senate going forward is a viable possibility. (Though I would note that McCaffrey’s war chest, which is still pretty big, was offset by outside help from single-issue–gay marriage, pro-abortion–PACs). But Donnis also quotes Warwick Rep. Frank Ferri who says, in affect, the tide is turning and gay marriage could be passed in 2013. I have my doubts.
A look at the historic election returns for McCaffrey’s district in Warwick may provide some helpful context.
|Year||Primary||General||Diff.||Primay Opp||General Opp||Note|
*NOTE: “Governor” and “President” indicates election year coincided with a state- or national election. Opponent vote totals are in ( ) in respective “Opp” columns.
First, it’s clear that the 2012 primary between McCaffrey and Pisaturo saw a higher level of turnout than all of McCaffrey’s previous primaries. That’s to be expected since he’s run unopposed since at least 1996 (and possibly 1994, but there was no primary election data at the RI Board of Elections web site for that year). Also unsurprising is that the closest election McCaffrey had ever had–up to the 2012 primary–was the 1994 General Election contest–his first–when he beat his Republican opponent by 1300 votes. Since then? Smooth sailing until this year’s primary.
One other item of interest is that, since 2000, McCaffrey has received more primary votes (when he’s usually the only candidate running!) during years in which there is a gubernatorial primary (which are “off year” elections) in Rhode Island than during Presidential election years. I wonder if that is the norm statewide? Anyway, since 2002, he’s run unopposed in every General election contest and has received anywhere between 7500-9700 votes. In the general elections when he did have a Republican opponent, he garnered 5,000-6,000 votes.
Where am I going with all of this? Well, based on historical numbers, lets say there are around 10,000 likely voters in the district. I think it’s a safe assumption to make that the most vociferous and motivated gay marriage supporters (Democrats and unaffiliated) turned out for Laura Pisaturo in the Democratic Primary. In total, around 3,400 Democrats voted in the primary. Less than half of them (1,600) supported a gay marriage candidate.
According to Ferri, we are to believe that the 7,500 or so unaffiliated voters, who are mostly of the same socially conservative, pro-labor union mindset as McCaffrey (and include 1,800 or so Republican/Repulican-leaning unafilliated voters)–and don’t include the hard-core gay marriage supporters who already supported Pisaturo in the primary–are on the cusp of pushing for gay marriage. I just don’t think so.
In actuality, I don’t think many care because it’s not the most important thing on their radar right now. That would be the economy. Something our General Assembly should really be focusing on, not this stuff.