It’d be difficult to find a more awkward entrance into the political arena than the arrival of Clay Pell. His car... make that his perceived loss of one... will remain one of those indelible “only in Rhode Island moments.” And as recently as mid-June, his numbers, despite his iconic grandfather, were at a frighteningly low 12% with both Raimondo and Taveras up closer to 30%. How do you overcome that kind of gap? Easy. Spend a million bucks. Stay close to your movie star quality wife. And stay on message: “New ideas. No outsider money. And prepare Rhode Island for Tomorrow.”
The specifics are a little more vague and are focused on some in-depth plans that are part of a master book he has prepared. They promise to build on our state’s advantages... the proximity of our waterfront, our oceanographic traditions, our vibrant immigrant population and, in some cases, the contacts that they have in their home countries.
One of his more ambitious initiatives is a plan to create a statewide internship program that would match high school seniors with commercial intern positions so each child would experience the reality of working in a real world environment, even if just for a short period. One of his more controversial plans, at least here on the East Side, is to seek the recall of the recently enacted estate tax deduction. The original justification was that the state needed to be competitive with its neighbors or risk losing wealthy retirees and their tax and charitable contributions to other states. Pell would redistribute the savings to address more specific working class needs.
But perhaps what has also been somewhat underestimated is the degree to which Pell has incorporated a vibrant “ground game” into his campaign. Some 25 Obama-experienced organizers have been working throughout the state to create get-out-the-vote and meet-and-greet events to help the campaign. Since this is a primary, they are identifying party loyalists likely to vote and for whom the Pell message of new ideas and independence from lob- byist interests will find resonance.
As a result of these efforts and the massive television campaign that has been unleashed, the next round of public polling results will show that Pell is now very much in the game. Much of his success has come at the expense of Mayor Taveras which explains the negative ads he has begun to run singling out Pell. The first salvo seems a little heavy-handed, making fun of Pell’s nervousness the first time he was asked about his Rhode Island roots. You might question whether young Mr. Pell has the skill set to prevail. But should you make fun of him? In a few weeks we’ll see who gets the last laugh.
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