Bill Clinton to campaign in RI on Thursday

Former President Bill Clinton speaks on behalf of his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a "Get Out The Vote Rally" in Columbia, S.C., Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s presidential primary will heat up later this week with the first major event by one of the campaigns.

Former President Bill Clinton will visit Rhode Island on Thursday to campaign for his wife, Hillary Clinton, ahead of the state’s April 26 presidential primary, state director Nick Black confirmed Monday.

The event will be held at CCRI’s Warwick campus at 12:30 p.m., with doors opening at 11:30 a.m., the campaign said. Members of the public who want to attend were asked to RSVP online.

“President Clinton will attend a public event where he will discuss why Hillary Clinton is the best candidate to raise wages and break down all the barriers holding families back,” the campaign said in an email.

Clinton has established a significant lead in delegates over her rival Bernie Sanders but continues to face a spirited challenge from him, with Sanders winning eight of the last nine primary or caucus contests. Clinton won a narrow victory over Sanders last month in the Massachusetts primary, during which Bill Clinton drew large crowds in Taunton and New Bedford.

The Clintons have previously had good fortune in Rhode Island. Clinton easily defeated Barack Obama in the state’s hard-fought 2008 Democratic presidential primary, even as Obama was well on his way to winning the nomination and the presidency, and Bill Clinton won the state in both 1992 and 1996.

Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns recently opened offices in Providence and went on the air with TV ads in Rhode Island over the weekend. All nine of Rhode Island’s “superdelegates” are already backing Clinton, but 24 more delegates are up for grabs in the primary.

On the Republican side, top supporters of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have all said they hope their candidates will visit the state to campaign, but no details have been formally announced yet.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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