Even those who never wrote off David Cicilline were surprised by his emphatic victory on Tuesday.
The incumbent Democrat beat Republican Brendan Doherty by more than 12 points – doubling his margin over John Loughlin in 2010 – as he managed to improve his performance in half the 19 communities of Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District.
A huge amount of the credit goes to Cicilline himself, a natural politician who ran two winning races over the last 18 months: his 2011 campaign to keep other mainstream Democrats from challenging him in the primary, and his 2012 campaign to win back voters unhappy about Providence’s finances.
But as Cicilline himself would surely admit, much of the credit also goes to President Obama and Mitt Romney, for waging a campaign that highlighted the significant differences between the two parties and reminded local Democrats and Dem-leaning independents why they dislike the GOP.
For evidence of that, check out this chart comparing Cicilline’s share of the vote across the 1st District in his two elections. In 2010 he lost Woonsocket 46-49; on Tuesday he won it 55-39. His margins improved to 78% in Central Falls and 76% in Providence. And even in places Cicilline lost, he didn’t get blown out – his loss in Cumberland, Doherty’s hometown, only worsened from 42-54 to 39-56. Take a look: