I've got a cover story in today's Phoenix on Republican Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty's little-noticed emulation of Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, whose truck-driving, blue-collar authenticity and squishy ideology offers the most compelling model for a GOP resurgence in the northeast.
Does Doherty pull off the Brown imitation? You'll have to read the story to find out. But here, I want to address a different question: is Doherty really the first plausible heir to Brown in Rhode Island, as I suggest in the piece?
Republican John J. Loughlin II, who ran against Democrat David Cicilline in 2010, drew plenty of Brown comparisons himself. I penned a cover story that pointed out some of the striking similarities: both were obscure state legislators who leapt confidently into the realm of Congressional politics; both rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard; both were possessed of a certain charm.
Hell, Loughlin even owned a pick-up truck, though he kept it garaged during the campaign. "It's kind of been done," Loughlin told me. "I'm thinking a unicycle."
But in retrospect, it's clear that the similarities were largely superficial. Loughlin couldn't claim the same blue-collar "one of us" authenticity, however deep his Rhode Island roots. And though he was smart enough to position himself as a moderate, he couldn't hide the mien of a true movement conservative.
Doherty, then, is the first candidate with the raw materiel to pull off a credible Scott Brown. Can he do it? As I suggest in the piece, that may be the most important question of his campaign.
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The Doherty piece, I would humbly suggest, is not the only one worth reading in this week's Phoenix. I've also got my take on Gemmapalooza and what it says about Rhode Island's relationship with the truth. My colleague David Bernstein asks whether the GOP should even try to make Mitt Romney likable at the upcoming Republican National Convention. And contributor Phil Eil has a great piece: a look at the StumpChair phenomenon on Providence's East Side.