The New Year will mark the de facto start of the 2014 governor's race. And while much of the nascent campaign will be about fundraising, the public policy fights waged by the would-be candidates will have no small bearing on their evolving images.
We're already getting glimpses of what the bold-faced names might pursue in the coming months. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras suggested in a year-end message to supporters today that, in the wake of the Newtown massacre, he'll be leading a fight for greater gun control in the Ocean State. And Treasurer Gina Raimondo tells RIPR's Ian Donnis that she'll be pushing for a crackdown on payday lenders.
Both efforts are sure to get some notice. But Raimondo and Taveras will not have the platform of a major rival - Governor Chafee.
Chafee has made his share of mistakes until now. But he has an opportunity - with the gay marriage fight, with the budget, with education and economic development policy - to shape the debate, make headlines, and rack up some victories. The power of incumbency, as one Chafee aide tells me, should not be underestimated.
We'll see how he does.