Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rhode Island's Role

By Sue Webb

Residents here in the tiny state of Rhode Island are somewhat surprised that they could help determine the Democratic presidential nominee, with 21 delegates at stake here on Tuesday. Turnout is expected to be extremely heavy. It's been considered a Clinton stronghold as she has long-standing political connections here and has the backing of most, though not all, of the state's Democratic officialdom in this very Democratic, heavily blue collar, somewhat insular state - seems like lots of people you meet have lived here all their life, and not ventured too far away. She is still ahead in the polls by 8-10 points, but the race has been tightening. One Latino leader said last week the state's Latino communities (about 6 percent of eligible voters) are divided. Clinton and her family have campaigned heavily here, which indicates she is concerned about the race. Hillary was here last week, drawing a crowd of about 2,000, substantial for this little state, similar to the numbers drawn by Michelle Obama a couple weeks ago. This week Bill was here, and then Chelsea. But today Obama drew at least 10,000 to a rally organized in just a couple of days, with at least 5,000 jammed inside and another 5,000 outside under umbrellas in the rain. One blog commenter said it tied for the largest rally ever in RI (don't know what the largest was...). On the evening news, a local NBC reporter said he'd "never seen anything like it before.

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