The lessons of recent elections for RI Republicans remain clear.
Surprising absolutely nobody, Democrat Gabe Amo won the available Congressional seat in Rhode Island yesterday. For those who really get into local politics, the thrill of the bet in such races is predicting whether the Republican will come in closer to 30% or closer to 35%. Gerry Leonard hit the 35%, so congratulations to him.
Because the outcome was so predictable, the Democrats didn’t even have to ramp up their mail ballot machine too much. Despite overall higher turnout in the general election (in total and for each party), Democrats collected more mail ballots when the race mattered. (Of course, an outside portion of those went to a single longshot candidate in the primary whose performance was eye-opening for anybody willing to open them.)
Even so, the role of mail ballots is conspicuous. Amo won them with 83% of the vote. His margin of victory was 19,561, 20% of which came from mail ballots even though mail ballots were only 9% of the total for all candidates. In Providence, Amo took 93% of mail ballots and 90% of votes overall. That one city contributed 24% of his margin of victory.
To be sure, Leonard won only a single municipality, Woonsocket, and by a slender margin of 114 votes, but the numbers provide two clear and important lessons. Republicans have to neutralize the mail ballot machine, either by (my preference) persuading voters that it spells the death of democracy, whatever their individual political beliefs, or by finding a way to turn it to their advantage, in which case the ruling Democrats will likely notice the harm that they do. Republicans also have to find a way to reach urban voters, which will be the bigger challenge.
Adding to the mix results from the recent special election for city council in Cranston produces an additional lesson. In that relatively conservative city, Democrat Dan Wall won by 216 votes, 62% of which were mail ballots and only 10% of which were election day votes. However, his closest competitor, Republican Anthony Melillo faced an additional handicap: independent candidates who surely harmed him more than his opponent and claimed 143 votes.
If Republicans must find a way to work together and keep allies aligned in order to be effective statewide on mail ballots and in the effort to make progress in Providence, they definitely have to do so in order to stop cannibalizing each other’s votes directly.
Featured image by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash.