Caprio's Clinton fixation

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  October 20, 2010

Caprio has also skillfully exploited broad opposition to Chafee's signature campaign proposal: imposing a one percent sales tax on currently exempt items like food, clothing, and medicine to help remedy the state's budget woes.

During a recent appearance before some 40 fifth graders, Caprio says, he introduced himself, said he was running for governor against Lincoln Chafee, and asked if the students knew anything about his opponent.

"About three-quarters of the hands went up and on purpose I didn't just pick on one guy, I said, 'tell me what you know,' because 10- or 11-year-old kids would yell out," Caprio says.

"He wants to raise taxes," the kids said.

Caprio: "And when I saw that, I said, 'I think it's going to be an uphill battle for [Chafee], if a 10- or 11-year-old kid sitting in fifth grade in North Providence knows the message.'"

Caprio has been spending a lot of time, these days, in towns like North Providence, East Providence, and Johnston — a traditionalist, vote-rich stretch of the state with a sizable Italian-American population that political operatives refer to as "the cannoli belt."

Public and private polling suggest that voters from this region — and a broader collection of seniors from across the state — form the foundation of Caprio's electoral coalition.

Indeed, if Clinton's New Democrat push had a feel of, well, the new, Caprio's candidacy — for all its clever exploitation of new media tools — has the feel of a throwback.

At a recent appearance before a group of seniors at a modest, well-groomed housing development in Johnston, Caprio handed out cards featuring a picture of himself as a young man, dressed in his Harvard baseball uniform, alongside his now-deceased grandfather, an Italian immigrant who worked as a milkman.

Caprio spoke of lessons learned from his grandfather. And he poked some fun at the elder Caprio's outfit: his suspenders pulling up his pants just a little too high.

The crowd had a laugh. And then Lorna E. Ziglio, 70, who worked as a senior services administrator under former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, stood up to sing a jingle on the candidate's behalf — "Vote for Caprio, he's our man" — just as she had for Cianci and gubernatorial candidate Joe Walsh before him.

Afterward Ziglio poked at a plate of hot ziti and meatballs proffered by the campaign and spoke of Caprio as a "down-to-earth . . . people person." It was, of course, the rhetoric of a fervent supporter. But it spoke to an important strength.

Caprio's ability to project some empathy for a struggling electorate — though hardly Clintonian— is serving him well in a race against the well-to-do Chafee. If he wins, it may be the decisive factor.


Getting Ziglio and the rest of the aging party regulars to the polls is vital for Caprio and his more liberal cohorts on the Democratic ticket; witness Cicilline's "Saving Social Security" tour.

But insiders say the get-out-the-vote effort will be hamstrung, a bit, by several Democratic candidates' decisions to contribute less than requested to the party's coordinated campaign effort.

There are some turf issues involved: the Cicilline camp, for instance, does not want to fold the extensive field operation it built during a competitive primary into the party-wide, general election effort. But there is also a disconnect between the universe of voters targeted by the gubernatorial standard bearer at the top of the ticket and the candidates listed below.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , Barack Obama, Politics, Bill Clinton,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIBERAL WARRIOR  |  April 10, 2013
    When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — Whitehouse makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.
    A key Brown University oversight committee has voted to recommend the school divest from coal, delivering a significant victory to student climate change activists.
  •   HACKING POLITICS: A GUIDE  |  April 03, 2013
    Last year, the Internet briefly upended everything we know about American politics.
  •   BREAK ON THROUGH  |  March 28, 2013
    When I spoke with Treasurer Gina Raimondo this week, I opened with the obligatory question about whether she'll run for governor. "I'm seriously considering it," she said. "But I think as you know — we've talked about it before — I have little kids: a six-year-old, an eight-year-old. I'm a mother. It's a big deal."
  •   THE LIBERAL CASE FOR GUNS  |  March 27, 2013
    The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut spurred hope not just for sensible gun regulation, but for a more nuanced discussion of America's gun culture. Neither wish has been realized.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG