CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — If one needed evidence that the presidential primary contests for both parties are reaching every corner of the country with intensity, consider the sprint of political activity this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s Rhode Island primary.
On Saturday afternoon, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Central Falls, the smallest community in the nation’s smallest state. She arrived hours after Ohio Governor John Kasich addressed a rally in Smithfield and fewer than 24 hours before her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, was scheduled to hold a large outdoor rally in Providence. All three venues are within an 8-mile radius. Meanwhile, former president Bill Clinton will campaign in the state Monday on behalf of his wife’s campaign.
After her rally in Central Falls Saturday, Hillary Clinton also stopped by the Atwood Grill in Johnston.
“I love this little state,” Clinton said in Central Falls. “I know how resilient and hard-working the people of this state are.”
Rhode Island and Connecticut are among five states that will hold Republican and Democratic primaries on Tuesday. Voters in these states head to the polls a week after both Clinton and Republican businessman Donald Trump scored solid wins in the New York primary and are now hoping to wrap up their respective party nominations.
There hasn’t been polling in Rhode Island since late February, when a Brown University poll showed Clinton leading Sanders 49-40 and Trump with a large lead among the Republicans. (A new Brown poll is due out Sunday.)
In the Democratic contest, aides to both Clinton and Sanders suggest that the race has tightened since that poll and that Sanders possibly has the edge, aided by independent voters who are allowed to participate. In 2008, Clinton defeated then-US Senator Barack Obama in Rhode Island by 18 percentage points.
“It is hard to tell what will happen,” said US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in an interview. Whitehouse is backing Clinton. Asked to define who makes up the so-called establishment that Sanders campaigns against, he said, “It seems to me the establishment is whoever you disagree with.”
During 30 minutes of remarks to about 1,200 people inside the Central Falls High School gymnasium, Clinton tried to highlight differences between herself and both Sanders and Trump, her potential general election opponent this fall.
Clinton seized on news reports that Trump aides told members of the Republican National Committee last week that Trump was “projecting an image” to Republican primary voters and would be a different candidate should he be the GOP nominee.
“Trump keeps saying things like, ‘Well, you know, I didn’t mean it. It was all part of my reality TV show,’ ” Clinton said. “If we buy that, shame on us.”
Those hoping to see Clinton lined up for blocks about 90 minutes before the event began. One of them, Kathleen McBride, of Cumberland, R.I., said she wanted to see how Clinton is different in person from the candidate she sees in the news media.
“I want to tell all of my friends about it,” she said.James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his daily e-mail update on the 2016 campaign at www.boston