The path to a Republican House majority will go through Rhode Island

Rhode Island's 2nd Congressional District has been held by Democrats since 1992.  However, recent polling, along with President Biden's low approval ratings and incumbent Congressman Jim Langevin's retirement, has given Republicans their best chance to win there since 1992.  Mayor Allan Fung of Cranston, R.I. is the presumptive GOP nominee, as State Rep. Bob Lancia dropped out on June 29.  During Fung's twelve-year tenure as mayor of Cranston, he also ran for governor twice but lost both times.  However, Fung's name brand has propelled him as the favorite to win in the fall.

The district comprises southern and western Rhode Island, which includes parts of the biggest cities, Providence and Cranston.  While the socio-demographics and electoral history do not favor a Republican winning, the 2022 political climate may change the district's course.  According to a Globe/Suffolk University out of Boston, voters in the 2nd District give President Biden only a 34% approval rating, and 71% believe he should not run for re-election.  That's devastating, considering that President Biden won this district 56% to 42% against President Trump.

The numbers continue to look bleak for Rhode Island Democrats.  Voters in the 2nd District give Fung a sizeable lead against six possible Democrat challengers.  Against the Democrat establishment favorite, treasurer Seth Magaziner, Fung leads in a potential matchup, 58% to 20%, among independents.

"The fact that you have a Republican as the favorite right now is mindboggling, and it speaks to what's going on in the country," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.  "The race, to me, is worthy of being a national story."

Fung's rise to frontrunner status is significant, considering that Rhode Island has not elected a Republican statewide since 2006.  Fung's campaign has managed to steer clear of controversy and run a modern, issues-focused campaign.  A recent interview with NBC 10 News blamed President Biden and the Democratic leadership in Washington for the economic pain Rhode Islanders are facing in the 2nd District.  He went on to say, "A lot of people, not just in the 2nd District, but throughout Rhode Island, throughout the country, are focused on one thing.  How are we going to get by?  Because we're in a crisis, a cost of living situation right now."

Fung considers himself the best candidate to deal with reviving the economy. Under his mayoral tenure, Cranston is one of the top fifty cities to live in and the top 100 to raise your children.  Yet, of the undecided voters in the 2nd District, 89% give the state of the economy a poor rating.  "Just like what I did in Cranston.  We fixed Cranston financially," said Fung.  Along with lowering the cost of living, Fung's other two agenda items include reducing prices at the pump with more drilling and renewable energy, standing with law enforcement, and supporting community policing.

Seth Magaziner has criticized Fung as a radical who will help support an "extremist" Republican agenda.  Spokesman James Singer said Fung is a "face plant" for congressional Republicans in D.C.  Mayor Fung responded to these attacks, saying, "Rhode Islanders trust, they've seen what I've done in 12 years as mayor.  Have you seen me go to the extremes on anything?"

Fung did not vote for Biden in 2020, but he recognized that Biden won the presidential election.  He has called for new leadership in the Republican Party to help get the country back on track.  When asked about whom he would support for president in 2024, Fung said "All I can tell you right now is I don't want Joe Biden to be our president in a couple of years."

The Real Clear Politics average has Republicans leading the congressional ballot with an eight-point margin.  David Paleologos finds that Rhode Island's 2nd District could have national implications.

"This is a great time to be running as a Republican in the state," said R.I. committeeman Steve Frias.  With only four seats needed to flip control of the House, the RNC has labeled District 2 a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans.

Image: Morrow Long via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped).

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