Exclusive: John Robitaille on a 2012 Senate bid

I spent a half-hour on the phone with Republican John Robitaille earlier this afternoon, and just posted the first news from the interview:

John Robitaille, the Republican who nearly defeated Lincoln Chafee in last month’s gubernatorial election, is seriously weighing a run against U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in 2012.

In an exclusive interview, Robitaille told WPRI.com he has asked his political advisers to conduct a feasibility study to assess what it would take for him to mount a credible challenge against the first-term Democrat.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet, and I’m not going to until after the first of the year,” Robitaille said by phone from Hawaii, where he is visiting his daughters and grandchildren. “But it definitely is on the table.” Another possibility would be a second bid for the governor’s office in 2014, he said.

During a half-hour conversation, Robitaille also discussed how the Moderate Party likely cost him the governor’s office and what he expects from Chafee. The full interview will be published Friday and Monday on WPRI.com’s Nesi’s Notes blog.

Robitaille suggested a Republican candidate will need to raise between $4 million and $5 million to stand a serious chance of defeating Whitehouse, who won the seat in 2006 from then-Republican Chafee.

Read the rest on WPRI.com, including reaction from our political analyst Joe Fleming. Here’s the full transcript of what Robitaille said when I asked him about the next election:

Oh, I certainly would consider it. In fact, I’ve asked my consultants to do sort of a preliminary assessment, a feasibility-type recommendation for a Senate run. But I haven’t made up my mind yet, and I’m not going to until after the first of the year as to what I’m going to do. But it definitely is on the table as something I have to say I would consider.

But I’m no fool. I mean, it’s going to be a presidential election year, and the Democratic Party is not going to want to give up that seat. Even though I proved you don’t need a lot of money to make a good showing, I think in order to run for a Senate seat you’re looking at probably $4 million or $5 million, somewhere in that neighborhood. So whoever decides to run for that seat against Whitehouse would need to really start planning probably as early as January or February of this coming year, at least to put an exploratory committee together and see if he can raise money.

And a lot’s going to depend, too, Ted, on what happens nationally. I mean, I know President Obama’s approval ratings have continued to slide with the economy, but if the economy starts turning around and if his presidency parallels any of the other first-term presidents that have a real bad first two years and then start coming up he could be on the upswing approaching the 2012 elections, and he could have some coattails, especially in a blue state like Rhode Island. All that has to be factored in.

Plus, I have other options. There’s a couple of books in my head. I’ve already spoken to two firms that deal in public relations and public affairs, one has an office in Washington. I’ve spoken with some higher-ed folks, a couple of private companies. Right now there’s a lot up in the air that when I get back from my little respite here, I will begin meeting with some folks and try to come up with a definitive plan.

But wherever I end up in January, I need to find myself a position where it still leaves me that option of running in either 2012 or running for governor again in 2014. I’m very cognizant of that.

I’ll post the full Robitaille Q&A right here on Nesi’s Notes in two parts tomorrow and Friday – transcribing takes time. He was quite candid, and offered an interesting behind-the-scenes take on how the governor’s race played out.

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