PROVIDENCE — With the Sept. 13 primaries fast approaching, Globe Rhode Island columnist Dan McGowan broke down the dynamics in the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District.
On the Rhode Island Report podcast, McGowan said none of the four leading Democratic candidates performed well enough in a WPRI-Channel 12 debate on Tuesday night to pose a clear threat to Republican candidate Allan W. Fung, who held a lead in a recent Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll.
“The biggest winner of the debate was clearly Allan Fung, who wasn’t on the stage,” McGowan said. “If I’m him, I show them this Democratic debate and I say, pull from Biden: ‘Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.’ And that is the case he is going to make.”
McGowan said the Democratic front-runner, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, emerged from the debate relatively unscathed, with his rivals taking few direct shots at him. So he thinks it’s unlikely that anything could upend the dynamics of the Democratic primary race with less than two weeks remaining.
“I mean, Seth Magaziner would have to move out of state to, you know, Wyoming, maybe, to lose this race,” he said. “At this point, I can’t imagine anything is going to change. He just has too much of an advantage financially, endorsements, and kind of an underwhelming group of opponents.”
The Globe/Suffolk poll, conducted in June, put Magaziner at 30 percent of the vote, followed by former state Representative David A. Segal at 8 percent, former Governor Gina M. Raimondo staff member Joy Fox at 8 percent, former Biden administration official Sarah E. Morgenthau at 3 percent, and Refugee Dream Center founder Omar Bah at 3 percent.
A WPRI-Channel 12/Roger Williams University poll, conducted in August, found 37 percent of voters remained undecided in the Democratic congressional primary.
“If I were running for office, I would make the argument to my supporters and to journalists that, yes, this gives me a chance,” McGowan said. “But if you’re down 30 points, which is where these candidates are to Seth Magaziner, do you really think that all of the undecided voters are going to break and are going to break specifically for you, as opposed to maybe being spread out?”
McGowan said the four Democratic candidates agreed on many issues, such as a federal ban on assault-style weapons and a prohibition on stock trading by members of Congress. But perhaps the biggest policy policy difference was their answer to a question about President Biden’s plan to cancel at least $10,000 in federal student loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers, he said.
During the debate, Magaziner said he “would have gone after it in a different way by lowering interest rates.” And Segal said he would have gone even further than Biden did by backing US Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with a household income under $100,000.
McGowan said the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade is making abortion rights a major issue throughout the nation. For example, Democrats had a big win on the Kansas abortion referendum and a House special election in New York had abortion rights as a centerpiece.
And abortion is bound to be a “huge” issue in the 2nd Congressional District general election, McGowan said. He noted that Morgenthau and Fox have said it’s time for Rhode Island to send a Democratic woman to Congress for the first time, and that Magaziner is touting the support of the National Organization for Women political action committee.
“In the general election, I think it’s a big deal,” McGowan said of the abortion issue. “The challenge for any of the Democrats who are running against a popular former mayor like Allan Fung is, they need to nationalize this race.”
Fung will likely win if the race is about his tenure as Cranston’s mayor, McGowan said. But Democrats will benefit from making the race about “the future of the country” — about abortion rights and questions of whether the Supreme Court would overturn the ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, he said.
Hear more by downloading the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.