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A few hot takes on the WPRI 12 / RWU poll

Abortion rights is a hot topic across the country and an issue in Rhode Island's major political races.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

We finally have a better sense of where things stand in the race for governor and the race for the 2nd Congressional District.

A new WPRI 12 / Roger Williams University poll released Thursday shows incumbent Governor Dan McKee leads Republican challenger Ashley Kalus 45 percent to 32 percent, and former Cranston mayor Allan Fung, a Republican, has a 46 percent to 40 percent edge over Democratic state Treasurer Seth Magaziner.

You should read the complete poll results. Meanwhile, here are a few quick takeaways.

What’s the ceiling for McKee and Fung?

Based on the WPRI/RWU poll, you’d much rather be McKee today than Kalus, and in the race for Congress, you’d probably rather be Fung than Magaziner.

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Yes, but: McKee is at 45 percent and Fung is at 46 percent in their respective races, which means they still have more work to do to actually clinch a victory. Assuming McKee and Fung are seeing similar results in their internal polling, there has to be at least some concern in both of those camps about their relatively low numbers.

If you’re McKee, you’re hoping for a boring final month of the campaign. Have a few debates, don’t make any mistakes, avoid controversy, and hope that the massive advantage of being a Democrat in Rhode Island is enough to carry you to the win.

Kalus will continue to show some level of growth as voters get to know her, but she needs to get a little lucky if she’s truly going to make this a competitive race. She’ll get her first real chance to stand out Tuesday night in the WPRI-12 debate.

If you’re Fung, you have enough experience in major races to know that a six-point lead with a month to go is a great validator, but you still have to worry about the onslaught that is going to come from Magaziner and the Democrats over the final month. The 2nd District might be red by Rhode Island standards, but it’s still a place where President Biden beat Donald Trump by 13 percentage points two years ago.

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The key issues

There’s a reason you keep hearing the Democrats talk about abortion rights in their televisions ads: it’s an issue that matters to the voters. While it’s no surprise that the cost of living is by far the No. 1 issue for Rhode Islanders (42 percent), abortion is second at 14 percent.

In the congressional race, that’s why Magaziner continues to ask voters to put aside their positive feelings about Fung and recognize what Republican leadership wants to do with abortion rights in this country. He wouldn’t be talking about it if it didn’t resonate.

In the governor’s race, Kalus is spending a lot of time talking about the cost of living and education, which rank first and third on the poll’s list of most important issues. Another opportunity for Kalus over the final month: Barely a third of voters (34 percent) think Rhode Island is moving in the right direction.

The soccer stadium is not popular

You’re probably going to hear a lot more (from Kalus) about developers seeking $60 million from the state and the city of Pawtucket to build a minor league soccer stadium. That was an issue McKee could easily defend in the Democratic primary (“I’m not turning my back on Pawtucket,” was his favorite line), but 56 percent of voters say they’re opposed to providing that much taxpayer support.

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Digging a little deeper, 64 percent of independents oppose the project, and those are the voters Kalus needs to win over.

Double Teaser

1) I’m filling in for Tara Granahan on WPRO this morning at 9 a.m., and we’ll dive deep into the numbers with pollster Joe Fleming right at the beginning of the show.

2) Get ready for another poll coming next week. The Globe and Suffolk University will be releasing our numbers on the race for governor and the 2nd District on Tuesday morning.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.