Clinton Leads Obama In R.I., U. Poll Finds

This story was written by Lily Szajnberg, Brown Daily Herald
As new poll results show that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., leads Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Rhode Island by eight points, Democratic students on campus rally for their candidates in the few weeks before the primary.

The poll, released this Monday by Professor of Political Science Darrell West and the Taubman Center for Public Policy, indicated that "if the primary were held today, 36 percent of the 474 voters … (would) vote for Hillary Clinton, (and) 28 percent (would) support Barack Obama."

The study sampled 739 registered voters in Rhode Island, and sub-sampled 474 probable Democratic voters.

These statistics contrasted with those taken in September, when Clinton had a lead of 19 percentage points over Obama. "Rhode Island is a state where the Clintons have always done well. The demographics here are good for them," West told The Herald.

"An eight-point lead with three weeks to go should not make anyone feel comfortable," he added.

Though Rhode Island is a small state, with a total of 32 delegates, its March 4 primary will be quite important due to its crucial time in the election process, West said. In the coming weeks, Rhode Islanders can expect to see Clinton and Obama put a significant amount of energy into campaigning in the state, he said.

With e-mail listservs at 100 members and growing, Brown Students for Hillary and Brown Students for Obama are wasting no time getting their supporters down the hill to canvass, make phone calls and increase their efforts to get out the vote.

This past Tuesday, more than 60 Brown students trekked through the winter storm to attend a Students for Obama meeting. The room buzzed with excitement over Obama's wins in D.C. and Virginia just a few hours prior.

Chris Torres '06, now the Providence Field Coordinator for the Obama campaign, joined the group to help organize the students' efforts.

"If we beat Hillary here, she's going to have to drop out because she's going to run out of money. We're down eight percentage points which isn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. We thought we were going to be down 20 percentage points. But we still have a lot of work to do," Torres told the group.

"Rhody is tightening. I think this is going to be the highest turnout in Rhode Island history, upwards of 300,000 voters. For us to win, we have two weeks to persuade people here in Rhode Island, which means we have to attempt 20,000 calls per day," he said. To that end, Obama supporters on campus will make personal phone calls to voters, said Max Chaiken '09, head of Brown Students for Obama and a Herald opinions columnist.

Brown Students for Hillary will also join the Providence campaign office of the Clinton campaign, to be "a big part of their get-out-the-vote operation," said Craig Auster '08, one of the group's co-leaders,, who added that he was satisfied with Clinton's lead.

"Eight points is a pretty healthy lead for Hillary. The Clintons have a long relationship with the state, and Hillary has a lot of support in this state from a lot of political leaders and grassroots activists as well," Auster said.

The Brown Democrats must remain officially undecided, but their mandatory neutrality does not translate into stagnancy. The group has partnered with Residential Life to bring voter registration to dorm life, Gabe Kussin '09, head of the Brown Democrats said.

"We're not allowed to endorse a candidate, but we're definitely going to do a lot of get out the vote on campus, let people know where their voting spots are. For a lot of people it's going to be their first time voting and we want them to feel as comfortable as possible with it," he said.

Once the primaries are over, the Brown Democrats will have a muc more clear-cut agenda, canvassing for the Democratic candidate in Rhode Island and surrounding states.

But both Chaiken and Auster were hesitant to entertain the idea of anything but a win for their candidate.

"I'm not thinking about that yet," Chaiken said, adding that he wants to focus on canvassing for Obama. "I try not to think of the what-ifs, because the only thing useful is to think about what I can do now, to make sure I'm doing everything I can to elect Barack," Chaiken said.

"The convention is really going to come down to delegates and at this point it's not how many states but how many delegates. We're confident that Clinton will win Rhode Island, and she'll have the most delegates and be our party's candidate," Auster said.

Kussin, who won't be casting his vote in his home state of North Carolina until May, said he is excited to still be undecided.

"The Brown Democrats are really excited that the party is so galvanized right now," he said. "I'm enjoying every minute of it."
© 2008 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE