A new WPRI poll gives Congressman David Cicilline a 43-31 lead on his Democratic primary challenger Anthony Gemma. The poll was taken mostly before Gemma's big news conference last week leveling voter fraud charges against the Cicilline camp, so it's possible things have shifted. But if the numbers hold and Cicilline cruises to victory, there are a couple of takeaways here to keep in mind for the general election
First, a big caveat. The poll surveyed Democratic primary voters. The electorate, of course, will be different come any November tilt with GOP candidate Brendan Doherty.
But some of the demographic trends are still of note.
First, it is increasingly clear that Cicilline's play for women voters, which I chronicled in June, is something like the lynch pin of his campaign. The WPRI poll shows him with a 47-30 lead over Gemma among women voters. The vulnerable incumbent will have to build a similarly strong margin against Doherty.
Second, Cicilline has built a 42-30 lead over Gemma among voters over the age of 60 - that's a 10-point jump since May. Seniors provided a good portion of Doherty's margin over Cicilline in a WPRI poll from February.
Of course, Doherty and Gemma are very different candidates; Doherty
seems unlikely to wander off into unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud
against Cicilline. He's building a strong war chest and will presumably
spend his time and treasure on a more fruitful critique of Cicilline.
But challengers are never as well known as the political class thinks they are. And to the extent that Gemma and Doherty are both the "anti-Cicilline" in this race, Cicilline's gains among women and seniors in the Gemma race need to concern the Doherty camp.