If you’re a campaign that has an unpopular platform, the last thing you want to do is talk about issues. Such is the case with the gubernatorial campaign of Allan Fung. The problem for Fung was that as the AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education went into its convention, talk shifted to if the unions would endorse Fung over the Democratic nominee Gina Raimondo. The kibosh was immediately put on that line of thinking when it was pointed out Fung had endorsed the idea of making Rhode Island a right-to-work state; a risky idea in a state with a large portion of union households and households sympathetic to unions.
So what did Fung do? He released an internal memo based of an internal poll suggesting the race was far closer than anyone thought. And, of course, news outlets ate it up. The Providence Journal‘s ridiculous online poll shows a massive amount of support for Fung, though of course, an online poll is useless. Despite not releasing the full poll, the Fung campaign got the coverage they wanted, that it’s a “tight” race and that pesky right-to-work story is out of headlines for now.
If another group tried to release a poll like this at any other time of year, the story would’ve been far different. The firm Fung used has a long history with push-polling that produces good news for its clients. This should’ve been called out and noted, since it takes only a few seconds to find. Instead, the narrative Fung wanted to put out was more or less treated uncritically.
Fung desperately needs a media narrative that projects strength. He is already outgunned on cash in a Democratic state, and debating issues isn’t an option. Just compare the Issues sections of the two campaigns’ websites. Raimondo’s has seven topic areas with a variety of specific issues in each of them, along with the option to go more in-depth. Fung has three topic areas (I have to link to the home page, as there’s no discreet Issues page) that barely share a common style (the government reform section is a video — guest starring Ian Donnis’ and Andrew Augustus’ arms — that made me think the page was bugged when I scrolled down looking for text). Chances are you’re more likely to find your issues of choice on Raimondo’s page than Fung’s.
The best part of this is Fung’s claim that Raimondo is damaged goods. Certainly, Raimondo had a hard-fought primary against two other candidates who were also relatively well-liked. But Fung couldn’t even handily send off an opponent whose third party vanity project sunk the Republican Party’s chances at the governor’s office four years ago, and then betrayed that third party to run for the Republican Party so he could get elected. That Fung didn’t crush Ken Block in his own primary speaks to a worrying dysfunction within the Fung campaign, which should be evident from the negative-space campaign logo. You’re supposed to see waves, but instead you see that there’s not much there.