'Shove it' Dem's gov candidacy on the rocks in Rhode Island; voters unhappy, poll shows a drop By MICHELLE R. SMITH , Associated Press October 28, 2010 PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio's candidacy appears to be on the rocks, days after he said President Barack Obama could "shove it" for not endorsing him. Many voters in this heavily Democratic state are unhappy with the remark, with some who had been on the fence saying it pushed them to choose one of his three opponents. Caprio, the state's general treasurer, was once neck-and-neck with independent rival Lincoln Chafee, but a new poll shows him dropping behind Chafee and into an embarrassing dead heat with Republican John Robitaille, a first-time candidate and former aide to term-limited Republican Gov. Don Carcieri. Moderate Party candidate Ken Block, a political newcomer and entrepreneur, rounds out the field. "I was on the fence anyway, and it just put me over," said Mike Jolin, 43, of Pawtucket, a Democrat who had narrowed it down to Caprio and Chafee and is now voting for Chafee. "I'm disgusted by the lack of civility and the tone in politics. There's enough people doing that on the Republican side. We don't need fellow Democrats doing it." Rick Lataille, 47, of Woonsocket, an independent, has decided to vote for Block. "It just so bothered me. He didn't apologize for it. He said it a few more times!" Lataille said. Indeed, Caprio has stood by the comment, although he has since added that he respects and admires Obama. His campaign manager, Xay Khamsyvoravong, told The Associated Press Thursday that Caprio did not plan the remark, in which he said Obama could "take his endorsement and really shove it." Still, Khamsyvoravong acknowledged it could have been phrased differently. "It was unfiltered, it was a very human response, and it is a response that we are taking ownership of," he said. Caprio made the comment to a radio station the morning of Obama's first visit to the state as president, and the morning after the White House announced Obama would not endorse anyone in the race out of respect for Chafee. Chafee is a former Republican senator who endorsed Obama ahead of the state Democratic primary in 2008. Caprio supported Hillary Rodham Clinton. Caprio has since tried to use the comment to his advantage as demonstrating that he will fight for what he believes, but that argument doesn't seem to be getting much traction. The poll of 523 likely voters, released Wednesday night by a Democratic pollster for WJAR-TV, was conducted partly on the weekend before the remark, but mostly Monday and Tuesday, and shows Chafee with 35 percent, Robitaille with 28 percent, Caprio with 25 percent, Block with 2 percent and 10 percent undecided. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. While 57 percent of respondents said the comment made no difference to them, 36 percent said they were less likely to vote for Caprio. Just 7 percent said they were more likely to vote for him. Caprio has raised $2.7 million, far more than any other candidate, and has had the help of $1 million in TV ads from the Democratic Governors Association. Chafee has loaned his campaign $1.6 million and raised about $730,000 more. Robitaille has raised about $630,000, including public matching funds and a $50,000 loan to himself, and the Republican Governors Association has spent more than $400,000 running TV ads for him. Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University, said the comment hasn't doomed Caprio's candidacy, but it has turned it into a three-way race, with Robitaille the most likely beneficiary since Caprio is more conservative than Chafee and opposes raising taxes. Chafee has proposed instituting a 1 percent sales tax on items that are exempt from the state's 7 percent sales tax, such as groceries and prescription drugs. Chafee's acting campaign manager, Mike Trainor, said it's hard to predict how Caprio's comment might influence voters on Election Day. "The big question about 'shove it:' Is it a two day-effect or does it stretch all the way through the election? And right now, it's anyone's guess," Trainor said. The three leading candidates have big names coming to help them in the two days before the election. Former president Bill Clinton comes Sunday, making his second campaign trip for Caprio. Independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes his second trip to Rhode Island for Chafee on Monday, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will stump for Robitaille the same day. Caprio isn't the only one of the candidates who's ever made an intemperate remark about a high-profile politician. Chafee in 2008 called the Republican vice presidential nominee, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a "cocky wacko." He never apologized, and stood by his comment.