I spoke with Doherty's campaign manager Giovanni Cicione on this point. He was, broadly speaking, careful not to read too much into the poll: this is a snapshot in time, he said, and Cicilline is an able, well-financed politician who should be able to move the numbers.

But when I asked, specifically, whether Doherty's inroads with Democrats could hold come fall, Cicione said the campaign has reason to be optimistic. After all, in a hypothetical match-up with another potential Democratic candidate, businessman Anthony Gemma, Doherty fared even better among Democratic voters than he did versus Cicilline.

This isn't just anti-Cicilline sentiment, he suggested — Doherty, a centrist who built a reputation for integrity as the superintendent of state police, may have a real purchase on some segment of Democratic voters. There are counterarguments, of course. Gemma is a relative unknown; he, too, could have room for significant growth among Dems should he win the nomination.

And Doherty's great strength in the poll — a huge advantage among seniors — seems unlikely to hold when Cicilline starts running ads declaring that Doherty and the GOP will "end Medicare as we know it."

Here's the thing, though: unlike many of his GOP predecessors, Doherty has proven a talented fundraiser. An amateur boxer in his youth, he will be in a good position to hit back on entitlement reform and run ads, in heavy rotation, on Cicilline's Providence days.

And his opponent, if still dangerous, has a mighty big gash below the eye right now.

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