Bernie Sanders to campaign in RI on Sunday

Democrat will visit one day after rival Clinton, days before state's presidential primary

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign stop Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders will visit Rhode Island over the weekend for a campaign swing ahead of the state’s presidential primary, WPRI.com has confirmed.

The Vermont senator will hold a “Future to Believe in Providence Rally” on Sunday at noon at Roger Williams Park’s Temple to Music, the campaign said. He will be joined by the actress Shailene Woodley.

Doors will open at 9 a.m. for the Sanders event. The campaign said RSVPs are “strongly encouraged” and asked voters who wish to attend to RSVP online. Admission will be first come, first served, and security precautions will be in place.

Sanders will make his stop in Rhode Island one day after Hillary Clinton plans to campaign at Central Falls High School, as the two rivals both try to woo local voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

The Sanders campaign already has Rhode Island ties: a Providence native, Tad Devine, is serving as Sanders’ senior adviser and has played a central role in the campaign. Devine’s previous experience includes high-level jobs with the John Kerry and Al Gore campaigns, as well as Clay Pell, Lincoln Chafee and Joe Paolino locally.

All nine of Rhode Island’s Democratic so-called “superdelegates” have already backed Clinton, but 24 other delegates will be divided between Clinton and Sanders based on the primary results – and both campaigns have been ramping up their efforts in what’s generally seen as a competitive race.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

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The Clinton campaign sent former President Bill Clinton to Warwick for a rally last week and has opened field offices in Providence and Central Falls, making a bet on high minority turnout in the state’s urban core. Sanders’ campaign held a well-attended State House rally last weekend and has opened offices in Providence and Wakefield, seeking to draw out groups that favor him such as independents and college students.

Clinton defeated Barack Obama by 18 percentage points in Rhode Island’s 2008 Democratic primary. But Sanders aides have pointed to her narrow victory last month in neighboring Massachusetts – which, like Rhode Island, was a Clinton stronghold back in 2008 – as evidence of the Vermont senator’s potential here.

“I believe Bernie can win Rhode Island,” Devine told WPRI.com in an email last month. “He came very close to winning Massachusetts, a state that President Obama lost to Hillary by 15 points, and Obama had support from Governor [Deval] Patrick and both U.S. senators.”

Among the Republican candidates, John Kasich is holding a town hall at Bryant University on Saturday morning, but Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have not made plans to campaign in Rhode Island. However, state Rep. Joe Trillo, Trump’s honorary state chairman, said Thursday a visit by the GOP frontrunner is still possible.

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

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Hillary Clinton won Rhode Island by 15 points in 2008; she won by 18 points.

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