Caprio's Clinton fixation

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  October 20, 2010

Downballot Democrats like Cicilline, Roberts, and treasurer candidate Gina Raimondo need to plumb Chafee strongholds like his native Warwick and the tony East Side of Providence. And they must rally the progressives and union voters who made such a strong showing in the primary.

If they succeed — if they get voters who might lean toward Chafee in the governor's race to the polls — they could actually damage the prospects of their own gubernatorial nominee. And the greater the pressure on his left flank, the more important it becomes for Caprio to reach into Robitaille's voter pool.

That has some party insiders wondering if the gubernatorial hopeful will feel compelled, in the closing days of the race, to take more direct aim at the Republican nominee.

It is a question that becomes all the more pressing as Caprio and Chafee continue their increasingly ugly, daily pummeling of each other — lending an air of dignity to Robitaille's stay-above-the-fray campaign.

But the risks of a full-on attack on the GOP candidate are great. It would require Caprio to fight a two-front war. And a Caprio-Robitaille bloodbath might ultimately redound to the benefit of the Democrat's most dangerous rival, Chafee.

So it seems Caprio may end up where he began this campaign: stuck in the middle, with Chafee to the left and Robitaille to the right.

Of course, being in the middle is not such a bad thing. That's where a good chunk of the voters are these days. But in a three-way race, with energized partisans on the left and right, it can pose problems.

Just ask Ross Perot.

David Scharfenberg can be reached

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