1. Let’s travel back in time to 2006, when the first commercial for Sheldon Whitehouse’s Democratic U.S. Senate campaign began with this message: “It’s one of the first votes that a senator makes — will they support a U.S. Senate controlled by the Republicans or the Democrats? It’s on that vote that George Bush’s agenda rises or falls.” The focus on the majority leader vote merits close attention because of Robert G. Flanders Jr.’s seemingly incipient Republican campaign against Whitehouse. Flanders declined an interview request after news of his exploratory committee emerged earlier this week. Instead, he used a news release to decry hyper-partisanship and cite the need for “practical solutions to the issues facing our country and our state.” Flanders, 67, also contrasted himself with Whitehouse by emphasizing his middle-class upbringing. But if the former state Supreme Court justice moves ahead with a campaign, Democrats will hammer how his first vote — if he wins — would be for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Nationalizing the race enabled Whitehouse to oust then-Republican Lincoln Chafee in 2006, even though Chafee’s approval rating was north of 50 percent at that time. Conversely, if Flanders can nudge Whitehouse to the left and take up more of the middle ground, it would raise his chances of beating the incumbent. “I think Bob Flanders is the best chance we’ve got,” state Republican Chairman Brandon Bell tells me. With state Rep. Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) set to announce his Senate campaign in May, Bell said he hopes Nardolillo will consider other options if Flanders moves ahead. Meanwhile, with Flanders taking an apparent turn away from a race of governor, it remains to be seen which Republicans — beyond expected candidate Cranston Mayor Allan Fung — will try to knock off Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo. Ken Block would say only, “It is early and shaping up to be a very interesting cycle.” Meanwhile, Giovanni Feroce‘s Lincoln Day Dinner speech in North Kingstown is on FB for all to see.
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