On Caucus Day, still waiting for RI’s first presidential candidate

Regardless of whether tonight’s Iowa Caucuses are won by Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or Ron Paul, one thing is for sure – the victor won’t be a Rhode Island resident. Again.

No Rhode Islander has been picked for the national ticket of one of the two major political parties since the Democratic Party’s establishment in 1828 and the Republican Party’s creation in 1856, said Chris Barnett, spokesman for Secretary of State Ralph Mollis.

The last Rhode Island resident to make the ballot was Richard Walton, who was the Citizens Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 1984. Walton and his running mate, Sonia Johnson, won 240 votes in Rhode Island against the Reagan-Bush and Mondale-Ferraro tickets.

“As anyone who receives email from the R.I. Green Party forum knows, the Warwick resident is still politically active,” Barnett added.

Of course, just because no Rhode Islander has won the nomination doesn’t mean none has tried, though it’s hard to find evidence.

Andrew Morse, Anchor Rising‘s resident historian, tried to do some digging of his own but found Rhode Island’s presidential candidate history to be “one of the most sparsely referenced subjects on the Internet I’ve ever looked into.” Google Books shows the Socialist Party of America considered nominating Rhode Island’s Edward W. Theinert for VP in 1912.

Morse did find a fictional Rhode Islander who ran for president on a major-party ticket: R.I. Gov. “Jack Crawford,” the Democratic Party’s nominee on the short-lived ABC show “Commander in Chief.” (Crawford lost to Geena Davis and her running mate.)

It’s clear Rhode Island doesn’t churn out presidential candidates on the same industrial scale as neighboring Massachusetts. Next-door Connecticut had its moment in the sun in 2000, when U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman was Al Gore’s running mate. And New Hampshire gets to play an outsized role in the process every four years thanks to its first-in-the-nation primary.

There’s always hope, though. Washington Post readers recently suggested Lincoln Chafee would make a good independent presidential candidate, and this week’s Time magazine hints that Gina Raimondo could be the “hot, young rising star” at next summer’s Democratic National Convention in North Carolina.

Rhode Islanders can cast their own primary ballots on April 24 as the state takes part in an informal regional primary in the Northeast along with Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. At this writing, Mitt Romney is the favorite here.

• Related: RI’s top Obama fundraiser Jeff Padwa gearing up for 2012 (April 26)

3 thoughts on “On Caucus Day, still waiting for RI’s first presidential candidate

  1. Ted, Hopefully a Rhode Islander will never be on the presidental ticket. With the who people of Rhode Island elect there are very Rhode Islanders who should state they are Americans. Look at how many residents of Rhode Island have spent time in the judical system then have their records expunged. You people have the attitude give them a break, they did not mean it, they won’t do it again. Rhode Islanders enable and condone crimals.

  2. Just for voting Chafee in and making a celebrity out of criminals (Buddy) just goes to show you the mentality of RIers. They wouldn’t be able to handle voting for a proper canidate for a presidential ticket.

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