What Might Have Been

In an interview before the Congressional primary, Democratic candidate Bill Lynch said that his internal polling showed frontrunner David Cicilline hitting a ceiling of support around 32 percent and that some 30 percent of the voters were still undecided in the closing days of the campaign.

Those voters, Lynch argued, were unlikely to break at that late hour for the best-known candidate - if they hadn't already embraced him, they weren't going to.

Lynch suggested that he was best positioned to pick up the undecideds and surge past a stalled Cicilline. That didn't happen. Cicilline won comfortably and Lynch finished last in the four-way race.

Still, there was something to Lynch's argument for a Cicilline ceiling. The Providence mayor-turned-Congressional candidate wound up with 37 percent of the vote - adding just a few points to his total in a Brown University poll from late July.

That makes N4N wonder: could Cicilline have been vulnerable in a one-on-one matchup for the Democratic nomination? Was there enough of an anti-Cicilline vote to make him vulnerable in a mano-a-mano contest? Perhaps. But the power of Cicilline's fundraising and name recognition are not to be underestimated. And the argument unspools a bit when you start gaming out the potential races.

If Lynch had gone tete-a-tete with Cicilline, could he have drawn the progressives who flocked to liberal David Segal's campaign? Doubtful. They probably would've backed the more liberal Cicilline or, for those most disappointed in the mayor, sat out the race.

Segal mounted an impressive assault from Cicilline's left - getting 20 percent of the vote. But he probably needed a multi-candidate race to make his committed supporters a true force; a progressive voting bloc is not enough in such a large district unless the electorate is split between many a candidate.

Anthony Gemma is an intriguing character. His messaging was scattered, his debate performances uneven. And yet, powered in no small part by heavy media buys, he finished second in the race. In a one-on-one race with a more focused campaign, he might have had a shot. But a more focused campaign, it seems, was not in his grasp this time around. And even then, he would've been the rookie to Cicilline's veteran.

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