Miracle in RI-1?

It was assumed pretty early on that the Eastern Rhode Island seat of retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., would go straight to the Democrats. They found a strong candidate — Mayor David Cicilline — and the Republicans fielded a weaker one who has run a lackluster campaign. Plus, it’s Rhode Island, for crying out loud. Republicans can win — even conservatives, like Gov. Don Carcieri, can win — but only on occasion.

Suddenly, Public Opinion Strategies has produced a Republican-commissioned poll showing Republican John Loughlin tied with Cicilline at 41 percent, and leading by five points among “those most likely to vote.” Apply a five-point deduction for the fact that it’s a partisan poll, and you’ve still got a real race on your hands where none was expected.

So what in the world is happening in Rhode Island? Is there any reasonable explanation for this result, or is it just a partisan outlier? Although I can find no FEC records, the 527 group Americans for Common Sense Solutions has supposedly plunged six figures into the race for these ads, to make voters aware of Cicilline’s vote against Megan’s law when he served in the state legislature:

And here’s their radio ad.

Providence’s finances have become another major issue. In a recent debate, Cicilline said the city’s pensions have been fully funded during his term in office and that the city is in great fiscal shape. Days later, the city auditor released a memo stating flatly that this was a lie. Cicilline’s administration had been stonewalling the auditor, hoping to slow-walk him through the election, so the auditor filed public information requests under state law this summer until he finally got to look at the city’s books. His memo to the City Council states that last year’s pension payments weren’t made, and this year’s cannot be made because the city’s cash reserves have been spent down to $4.6 million, a mere fraction of what is owed.

Loughlin has about half as much cash on hand as Cicilline, but Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., will be coming to town Monday to help him raise some money, hoping to replace yet another Kennedy with a Republican.

Big picture: If this one is really competitive, then Katy bar the door.

Beltway Confidentialelection 2010john LoughlinUS

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