Cicilline and the feminist ground game

I've got a cover story in this week's Phoenix about Congressman David Cicilline's push to woo women voters in this fall's elections.

The more I reported the story, the more I became convinced that this is the ballgame: win the women's vote by a good margin and Cicilline goes back to Congress. Fail and he goes home.

Anyhow, one element that didn't get in the story is this: the role of a newly invigorated ground game for the Rhode Island women's movement.

In December, Paula Hodges, a sharp, data-driven political operative out of Missouri, arrived in the state. She has been running Planned Parenthood of Southern New England’s Rhode Island political shop ever since.

And while she is only allowed, by law, to focus on state-level races, the efforts of Hodges and other progressive groups to drive liberal, pro-choice voters to the polls should redound to Cicilline’s benefit.  

But these kinds of efforts have their limits. Kate Coyne-McCoy, a political consultant who ran for a Rhode Island Congressional seat in 2000, puts it bluntly. “You’re not going to win with door-knocking,” she tells me. “It’s something only a hippy still believes.”

Yes, the ground game can help. But Cicilline has to raise a pile of money if he’s going to effectively appeal to women and make the message stick.

What, precisely, is that message? And can it put the embattled incumbent over the top? Read my cover story.

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