Republican Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty won the Providence Journal's endorsement yesterday.
It was an important stamp of approval for the GOP challenger, even if the state's paper of record is not the force it once was. But I was most struck by the tepid quality of its endorsement - and what the piece said about Rhode Island's deep ambivalence about this race.
The paper praised incumbent Congressman David Cicilline for the bulk of his work as Providence mayor, arguing that he ran "a generally honest and energetic administration" and got the city moving in the right direction. It lamented that his "failure to disclose the city's near-bankruptcy" at the end of his term - his ambition to move up - had "damaged" the capital, "particularly sad, considering that he did a lot of good work in much of his tenure."
The ProJo then credited Doherty for ably running the state police and being a man of integrity, but said "he is still learning the nuts and bolts of some issues." And the paper said the Republican is to its right on issues like Obamacare. "Here we stick in our usual caveat: Campaign rhetoric, however sincerely a candidate might believe in it during a campaign, inevitably bumps into the realities of governing in our complex nation."
In short, it's not the sort of rhetoric the Doherty camp might turn into a radio ad. But it is, perhaps, a concise summary of the Republican's actual hope for victory: that a state disappointed in a talented Democrat might place its reluctant hope in a GOP alternative saddled with an increasingly toxic national Republican brand.