My cover story in this week's Phoenix - on-line later today - will take a deep dive into the looming Senate battle over gay marriage.
The piece touches, in part, on the whip count I've developed - a senator-by-senator analysis of where everyone stands on the legislation. I'm offering a sneak preview in this space. (Check out the Providence Journal's partial count, which differs a little from mine, here.)
This sort of analysis is, inherently, an imperfect science. Senators don't return calls. Votes are fluid. Insiders have different views on where, precisely, certain senators stand.
The current count, moreover, may look quite different than the final one, should the bill make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and onto the floor. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed will certainly exert some influence. Some members could "take a walk," abstaining from the vote. And if the measure looks like it's headed toward passage, senators on the fence - or even leaning no - may hop on board.
It's nice to be with the winners, of course. But with public opinion in Rhode Island and across the country shifting rapidly toward support for gay marriage, lawmakers may also want to land on "the right side of history."
All those caveats aside, here's my count: 14 yeses, three lean yeses, 14 nos, four lean nos, and three toss-ups. Couldn't be much closer. First, the yeses and nos:
These yeses and nos aren't etched in stone; one gay marriage supporter told me he thought Walaska might be turned, for instance. But the votes look pretty solid.
Here's the group of 10 senators in the middle who could decide the fate of the bill - some of whom appear to be leaning (in some cases quite heavily) in one direction or the other: