50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 13. Rhode Island

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

13. Rhode Island

Capital:  Providence

Nickname: The Ocean State

Motto: Hope

About the State

Measuring just 48 miles in length and 37 miles across, Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states and was the last of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the Constitution.  Just over a million residents cram into the relatively small area, ranking it 43rd in population and second in density.  If Rhode Island had the same number of people per square mile as Wyoming – the least densely populated of the lower 48 states – then only 7,101 people would live there.  The land was originally divided into two colonies, the first of which, Providence Plantation, was founded by Roger Williams in 1636, after he was expelled from Massachusetts Bay Colony for religious views which were later adopted by the framers of the Constitution – freedom of religion, and the separation of church and state.  In 1638, another colony of religious exiles was formed on Rhode Island and the two joined together in 1644 and to this day the state’s official name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

The state was heavily involved in the Revolutionary War – one of its natives, Nathaniel Greene, was a Major General in George Washington’s Continental Army; and the Battle of Rhode Island was the first in which the Americans had the French on their side, after the Europeans had chosen to support the colonists’ fight for independence.  That conflict involved the country’s first African-American military unit – the 1st Rhode Island Regiment – and the march to Yorktown, that ended with defeat for the British, began in Newport.  Following the war, Rhode Island merchants controlled the majority of the slave trade in America and there was a higher percentage of slaves in the state than any other in the New England region.  Despite this, it was the first to respond to President Lincoln’s request for troops from the Union states and sent more than 25,000 men to fight in the Civil War.

Rhode Island’s economy is based around health services, tourism and manufacturing – including silverware, fine jewelry, electrical equipment and shipbuilding.  No U.S Presidents have been born in the state, but John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport.  The longest consecutive observance of July 4th as Independence Day has been held in Bristol, RI, and the oldest schoolhouse and carousel are in Portsmouth and Watch Hill respectively.  The state was one of only two (alongside Connecticut) not to ratify the 18th Amendment of the Constitution that brought in prohibition to the USA.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 4

2008 Result: Obama 63.1% McCain 35.2%

Latest Poll: No recent polls available

President Obama will win Rhode Island in November’s ballot and gain its four Electoral College Votes.  Since 1988, the state has voted for the Democratic candidate in every Presidential election and that trend will not be broken this year.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election Rhode Island this year – the incumbent Democrat, Sheldon Whitehouse, will seek a second term in office and is facing Republican candidate, Barry Hinckley.  Whitehouse is expected to win re-election by a wide margin.

Rhode Island has two seats in the House of Representatives and both incumbents are from the Democratic Party.  In the 1st district, Brendan Doherty (R) has been closely challenging Rep. David Cicilline, but he still looks unlikely to win election to Congress in November.

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