The Block Quandary

N4N is just back from the latest gubernatorial forum - this one hosted by the business-backed Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council. And on the way out, I spoke with a businessman from a prominent Rhode Island company who said what more than a few who have watched the candidate forums are suggesting: Moderate Ken Block made the most impressive showing.

Aside from a couple of painfully bad jokes, Block appeared bright, quick on his feet, and well-versed on the issues. And he offered the sort of poltical outsider perspective that should play well this election season. Yet, in the recently released WPRI-TV poll, he languishes at the back of the pack with the support of just four percent of likely voters.

His problems are many: scant media attention; the presence of another, higher-profile independent in the race in Lincoln Chafee; and a Moderate Party that simply can't compete with the infrastructure and name recognition of the Democrats and Republicans.

Chafee, of course, has no major party affiliation either. And that's hurting him in some ways. But his strengths - his name recognition, experience, and reputation - come out of a career built under the tent of a major party, the GOP.

Indeed, the surge of prominent independent candidates nationwide - Chafee, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Florida governor and Senate candidate Charlie Crist - consist entirely of major-party refugees. The true outsider - the Ross Perot type - still faces major obstacles.

If Block keeps at it and the state is still in bad shape four years from now, he might fare better in a second run. But the businessman I spoke with today suggested another place for his talents, at least in the short term: a place, on staff, in the next administration.


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