Parsing the Poll

This morning, I dug a little deeper into the new WPRI poll that shows Republican Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty with a substantial lead - 49 to 34 percent - on incumbent Democratic Congressman David Cicilline. And I compared it to previous polls.

A couple of curious findings leap out.

In a May 2011 poll commissioned by WPRI, Doherty had a 46-point lead among independents - news of Providence's fiscal woes weighing heavily on Cicilline, fresh off a two-term stint as mayor of the capital city. By September, with Providence's budget nightmare out of the headlines, a GoLocalProv poll found that lead had shrunk to 14. In the new poll, with the city's financial problems front and center again, it's back up to 29 percent.

Significant swings, no doubt. But interestingly, the volatility among Democratic voters is even more pronounced. Cicilline's lead with this cohort moved from 35 to 53 to 24 points, in those same three polls.

Bottom line: Cicilline took a much bigger hit among Democrats between September 2011 and February 2012 (a 29-point drop) than among independents (a 15-point hit).

What does that mean? Well, as the campaign kicks into gear, and the focus shifts - at least somewhat - from Providence's fiscal woes to national issues, Cicilline could have substantial room for growth among Democrats turned off by the GOP's platform.

Of course, this assumes that the Providence furor will die down. And the news of the past few weeks has proven its staying power

Moreover, it would be foolish to discount the importance of independents, who are vital swing voters. They have consistently given the incumbent poor favorability marks. And it will be tough to win them over. But if Cicilline can contain the damage there, he might have a shot.

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