The Audience for Raimondo’s Errors


Readers of this site have probably heard that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo has begun the general election campaign with a trademark Raimondo move: an unnecessary error.  Her first attack ad against Republican Allan Fung shows a neighborhood in Providence while claiming that he’s done a poor job as the mayor of Cranston:

Faulty video footage in a commercial is once again causing headaches for Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo.

Fresh off her primary victory last night, Raimondo’s campaign began airing an attack ad Thursday morning that criticizes Republican nominee Allan Fung for his record as mayor of Cranston, showing pictures of rundown buildings in a hard-knock neighborhood.

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There’s just one problem: those streets are in the Silver Lake section of Providence, not Cranston – as the Fung campaign was quick to point out, and follow-up visits by reporters confirmed.

The only way to characterize this mistake is as an embarrassment.  She’s the governor of the state.  She’s a Providence resident.  Yet, her campaign can’t identify the border of her home city from the one next door.

That said, commentators are missing an important consideration:  It probably doesn’t matter to Raimondo’s target audiences that the video got it wrong.  They’ll assume Raimondo’s broader claim is true and that a camera crew could have found a run-down neighborhood in Cranston (as it could find one in any city).

For Raimondo, an ad attacking Fung’s management record is targeted a Rhode Islanders (and non–Rhode Islanders) who don’t know, themselves, where Providence ends and Cranston begins.  They’re people who get their news more from national sources, which still tout Raimondo as some sort of reform moderate, than from local TV.

Simply the fact that Raimondo would OK an ad casting aspersions at an urban community within the state that she governs gives a sense of her audience.  She’s assuming that potential voters who might take offense are already locked in by social policies or government give-aways, like universal pre-K.  This ad is for people who want some reason to believe that they can discount her opponent’s management experience.

Whether they’ll take the ad’s sloppiness as (further) evidence of Raimondo’s poor management skills, perhaps we’ll learn in November.