Rhode Island Refuses to Be Overshadowed March 4
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Most of the attention for Tuesday's Democratic primaries has been on the delegate rich states of Ohio and Texas, but let's not overlook Rhode Island, with 21 delegates at stake. Barack Obama doesn't. He's campaigning there today. Neither does Hillary Clinton. She was there earlier in the week. Twenty-one delegates, plus 15 more in Vermont may seem comparatively small, but in the struggle between Clinton and Obama, everyone counts.
NPR's Nancy Cook reports.
NANCY COOK: Pawtucket, Rhode Island is a small working-class city full of old factories and mill buildings that are now being turned into fancy lofts. Most of the residents are immigrants or blue-collar workers who have lived here their whole lives in triple-decker houses or small bungalows that sit just a couple feet apart. Thirty-eight year old Toni Windcoup(ph) is trying to get out the vote for Barack Obama. She's never been politically active before, but even her 8-year-old daughter, Morgan(ph), who does not plan to vote on Tuesday, is jazzed about Obama.
Ms. MORGAN WINDCOUP (Daughter of political activist): Because he's really going to help kids learn more and I would like to see that to get into college so I can cook and do different recipes…
COOK: (Unintelligible) an unscientific survey of voters living on Columbine Street, find some but not all agreeing with Morgan. Megan Wagner(ph) is a waitress at the Olive Garden restaurant. She has her hands full with trying to get her two young kids to sit down at breakfast. But she's not too busy to talk politics.
Ms. MEGAN WAGNER (Waitress): I think either way it's going to be just a good choice, I'm just a little torn up to what I'm going to be doing. Like, at first I was completely Hillary, but after her explained to me a little bit about the medical situation and what her plans are and what his plans are, I'm leaning a little more towards Obama.
COOK: A few doors down Claire Lollier(ph) says she 82, a life-long Democrat and leaning towards Clinton.
Ms. CLAIRE LOLLIER (Democratic Voter): She's real smart. She's a real smart lady. Anyway, she does know what she's talking about. Let's put it that way.
COOK: Rhode Island has the demographics that have been kind to Hillary Clinton in the past, a large number of blue-collared voters. But as else where, Obama has been making inroads with these voters. Polls show Clinton's lead in the state has slipped from 19 points to 8 points.
One thing that few people here ever suspected would happen is that suddenly Rhode Island's primary is getting noticed, says Brown University's Darrell West.
Professor DARRELL WEST (Brown University): Rhode Island always has been the off-Broadway political venue. Nobody really pays much attention to the state, so people here are very excited that suddenly our vote really matters. It actually could be decisive along with that of Ohio and Texas, so I think turnout is going to be up substantially.
COOK: Earlier in the week, Clinton was here and talked about the economic issues important to Rhode Islanders, home foreclosures and jobs moving overseas. After the rally, Scott Duhamel, the business rep for the local painter's union said he's voting for Clinton.
Mr. SCOTT DUHAMEL (Business Rep for local Painter's Union): We're supporting the Senator for a number of reasons and largely economical I would say. Some of the things that concern us most is the healthcare and the country's economy as, you know, most labor unions are concerned about that. We think that she's probably the most electable candidate although I will tell you quite clearly, the last Dem standing. We'll be there for whoever that may be.
COOK: No matter who wins the state, everyone knows that ultimately, the headlines on March 5 will be about Ohio and Texas. But just the fact that the race is still going on and that Rhode Island still matters has gotten a lot of voters here excited.
Nancy Cook, NPR News.
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