Among the local elections on this year's ballot is the matchup between incumbent U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Republican challenger Barry Hinckley of Newport, who recently stopped in Johnston for a meet-and-greet at the home of the town's Republican Committee Chairman, George Resnick.
Falling in the same year as a Presidential election (where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems to be the presumptive Republican nominee to run against President Obama), Hinckley's run is clearly built on the potential for lots of votes cast, as well as recent gains made by the GOP in usually blue territory like New England.
Indeed, Hinckley's website prominently displays the endorsement of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who won a stunning victory for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in 2010.
Hinckley has posted issues statements on his website that include:
- Removing government regulations on businesses;
- Balancing the federal budget;
- Imposing term limits;
- Repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare";
- Replacing the federal tax code;
- Bringing U.S. troops back from Afganistan;
- Ending dependence on foreign oil within 10 years.
The first-time candidate is also taking direct aim at Whitehouse for his votes in the Senate, including a critique of Whitehouse's opposition to the Keystone Pipeline posted on Mar. 28 on GoLocalProv.com.
As far as fundraising, WPRI-12 reported that Hinckley raised about $300,000 during the first quarter of 2012, roughly on pace with Whitehouse's $380,000 raised in the last three months.
But Hinckley also has several factors working against him.
First, there's the campaign money. He may have collected an impressive-looking amount between January and March — but he's still far behind the incumbent's reported $3.26 million war chest.
Then, there's the fact that Whitehouse can get the help of a sitting U.S. President and Vice President — as seen in February, when VP Joseph Biden visited Providence for a fundraiser.
And in a state that hasn't gone Republican for a Presidential candidate since 1984, Hinckley faces a serious headwind of historically Democratic victories in the Ocean State.
Finally — though in many cases, most visibly — Hinckley has made some missteps in his fledgling campaign.
On Mar. 1, there was his appearance on Fox News that Adam Goldberg of HuffPo Politics termed "awkward" because of the way Hinckley's five-year-old son behaved in the segment.
More recently, Hinckley was forced to publicly retract a statement he had made about Whitehouse's support of the so-called "Buffet Rule," the Providence Journal reported, after he claimed that the legislation imposing a minimum tax on millionaires would raise property taxes.
Within two days of Hinckley's admission to the error, the Journal reported that John J. Loughlin II had resigned from his post as Hinckley's campaign spokesman, with former Rhode Island GOP Executive Director Patrick Sweeney taking the job.
So what to you think?
Does Hinckley have a chance to mount a serious challenge to the former Rhode Island Attorney General who defeated Gov. Lincoln Chafee in 2006 for the seat long held by Chafee's late father?
Will there be a Republican wave that sweeps yet another GOP candidate into a blue-state Senate seat?
Or will Whitehouse have to break much of a sweat to essentially swat away a longshot candidate?
Here's your chance to be a political pundit — let us know what you think in the comments below.