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New Poll Shows Clinton's Rhode Island Lead Is Widening

This story was written by Brian Mastroianni, Brown Daily Herald
A new poll shows Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., leading Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., by 15 points in Rhode Island, meaning her lead has widened in what has become an important primary for the former first lady. Conducted on Feb. 23, the telephone survey reached 1,035 Rhode Islanders, according to Rasmussen Reports, the private public opinion company that did the poll.

The Rasmussen poll found 53 percent of those surveyed would vote for Clinton versus 38 percent who would vote for Obama. Though closing the gap separating him and Clinton in other states, in Rhode Island Obama is facing a state that "has historically always wanted to go against the tide -- for instance, Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the constitution," Associate Professor of Political Science Wendy Schiller said.

These results differ from those released by the Taubman Center for Public Policy on Feb. 11. That survey, which found Clinton leading by eight points, reached 739 individuals. "We use human interviews, as do most national interest groups," said Darrell West, a professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center. Rasmussen uses "an automated phone call, and you would choose either Obama or Clinton, and as a result, it does not include the uncommitted choice that would be found on ballots during the actual primary," West said.

Demographically, the state suits a Clinton victory, Schiller said. "We have a large number of older voters, and a fairly large Hispanic population, as well as registered Rhode Island Democrats who will vote for a Clinton win," Schiller said.

In terms of reaching out to local voters, both candidates are running active campaigns, West said.

"Obama is focusing on a more grassroots campaign, while Clinton is relying more on the political establishment and endorsements from major political players," West said.

"Both are doing a good job here; her core consists of long-standing organizational strength, while he seems to have a lot of enthusiasm surrounding his campaign," Schiller said.In terms of spending in Rhode Island, Obama has been investing more in television advertisements. According to a Feb. 23 Providence Journal article, Obama has been spending three times as much as Clinton on TV spots. He has booked more than 640 commercial slots at a total cost of $156,000, compared to Clinton's 160 TV spots at a cost of $43,000, the article reported.

The amount of spending on TV advertisements in Rhode Island shows that Obama is trying to target Clinton's areas of strength in the state, Schiller said.

Though not as publicized as the Ohio and Texas primaries to be held the same day, Schiller and West said the Rhode Island primary would still matter. "Every delegate matters, since it is a close race between Clinton and Obama," West said. "I think Obama has a lot of momentum, but in terms of the Democratic nomination, nothing will be decided on March 4th," Schiller said.

Representatives from the Clinton and Obama campaigns did not returns calls from The Herald.
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