Rory Smith's departure from the gubernatorial race leaves a big hole atop the GOP ticket. And if Steve Laffey, the combative former mayor of Cranston, was looking for an opening to hop into the governor's race, this would be it.
Laffey, who has sworn off the race in the past but become a subject of speculation of late, would still have to be considered a long-shot in a heavily Democratic state. Particularly after the state went south under GOP Governor Donald Carcieri. But with a strong independent candidate in the race, in Lincoln Chafee, a three-way split of the vote provides an opportunity for a charismatic Republican to steal the crown.
The state's spiraling budget problems also play into Laffey's strength as the man who turned around Cranston in the middle part of the decade.