Women voters may very well determine the outcome of the race pitting Congressman David Cicilline against Republican challenger Brendan Doherty.
Indeed, Cicilline's six-point edge on Doherty in a recent WPRI-TV poll is powered by his 13-point advantage among female voters. And Doherty's camp appears hyper-aware of its need to cut into the incumbent's margin.
Doherty recently hosted a high-profile "Women for Doherty" event. And yesterday, at a press conference at a boxing gym, Doherty spoke of his work, as a state trooper, protecting victims of domestic violence. He also blasted Cicilline for representing men accused of brutal crimes against women in his days as a practicing attorney.
The press conference came after Cicilline attacked Doherty for opposing an expansion of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to include Native Americans, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community.
The back-and-forth over VAWA is, perhaps, the most revealing - and fraught - exchange of the entire campaign. Let me explain:
Doherty's task, it seems, is to send signals to women voters that he is an acceptable choice, without allowing women's issues - rather than his attack on Cicilline's stewardship of Providence's finances as mayor - to become the defining issue of the campaign.
If his press conference doesn't spawn a mushrooming battle over women's issues, it could help his cause. If it does, he could be in trouble.