Second, and perhaps more important, Taveras faces a fierce rival in Raimondo, whose determination and towering pile of cash — she already has more than $1 million in her campaign account — might be enough to push other Democrats out of the race.
THE JUGGERNAUT STRATEGY
Rhode Island-based political consultant Kate Coyne-McCoy, an informal advisor to Raimondo, says she can't confirm talk that the treasurer will declare for governor in the early part of 2013.
But she says she would advise a skilled fundraiser like Raimondo — Coyne-McCoy, who has worked with thousands of women candidates, puts the treasurer in "the top 0.5 percent" when it comes to beating the bushes — to get out early, build an impressive campaign organization, and clear the field of potential rivals.
It is a strategy that looks quite a bit like that of Raimondo's predecessor, former treasurer Frank Caprio, a Democrat who had raised more than $865,000 by this point in the 2010 gubernatorial race and eventually eased Attorney General Patrick Lynch out of the party primary.
But Raimondo's rivals point to Caprio as proof of the limitations of her juggernaut strategy. Like the current treasurer, they say, Caprio had a problem he couldn't buy his way out of: the progressive wing of the Democratic Party didn't like him, defecting to Chafee in the general election.
Raimondo's supposed "liberal problem" has armchair strategists wondering if she will leave the Democratic Party and run as an independent in the general election. But her spokeswoman tells the Phoenix in an email that the treasurer "is not considering" the move and "won't consider it."
Dropping out of the party could damage Raimondo's national aspirations; she is said to have her eye on the US Senate. But her advisors also believe she'll be stronger in a Democratic gubernatorial primary than her rivals would suggest.
The treasurer will stake out ground as a progressive on issues like gay marriage, which Caprio only half-heartedly endorsed. And she appeals to some key sectors of the Democratic electorate.
Coyne-McCoy says Raimondo will have a natural resonance with women. And she'll do well among men, too, she argues. Indeed, in the September WPRI poll, 63 percent of men gave the treasurer high marks on job performance versus 53 percent of women.
Raimondo is also popular among older voters, who are a major voting bloc. And her team is clearly banking on an appeal to party regulars and independents — the sort who appreciate that she took on a big, tough problem in pension reform and got something done.
Indeed, Coyne-McCoy argues that the big takeaway from the presidential election is that Americans aren't anti-government — they just want a government that works, that spends their tax dollars wisely.
And Raimondo, who has already begun to sound the theme in interviews, will sound genuine delivering the message, Coyne-McCoy says, because it reflects her authentic self.
If it is enough to get her through the primary, that message will present real problems for the Republican nominee — Fung? former superintendent of state police Brendan Doherty? — who will surely make a similar appeal.
And who might benefit most from a Raimondo-Republican fight for conservative and centrist votes? Governor Chafee, perhaps — a hobbled pol seeking a second narrow victory even more remarkable than the first.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @d_scharfenberg.