For now at least, Carcieri and his staff seem capable of more or less holding their own against the majority Democrats on Smith Hill. Although the governor suffered a defeat last week with the decisive override of his medical marijuana veto, he parried with the Dems on a proposed increase of the minimum wage, putting forth a “compromise bill” (to raise the wage to $7.10, instead of $7.40) that offered at least a nod to the concerns of blue-collar voters.
Like Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey, another new star among Rhode Island Republicans, Carcieri has proven adept at using his knack for political communication to build a broad following while downplaying his affluence and conservatism. Carcieri, of course, is also far less of a polarizing figure than Laffey, and he rubs fewer people the wrong way with rough edges and visible glimmers of calculation. Whether he will regain the governor’s office — and what he would accomplish over two terms if he does — is a story yet to be written.
There’s a world of difference, of course, between the presidency and being Rhode Island’s governor. Like the original great communicator, though, Donald L. Carcieri may one day be remembered in part for a not wholly explainable ability to confound his political opponents.
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