Rhode Islanders are a week away from the presidential primary election, and Republicans are hopeful their favorite contender for president will walk away victorious.
Last Wednesday, the same day Rick Santorum announced he was dropping out of the race, former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney hosted a Town Hall Meeting in Warwick. More than 700 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel to listen to his speech and catch a glimpse of the candidate.
Among those in the crowd were Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Ward 1 Councilman Steven A. Colantuono, State Rep. Joe Trillo and Warwick GOP Chairman Danny Hall, Vice Chairman Ed Carpenter, Secretary Nancy Watson and Treasurer Christine Allen. Alex and Ani designer and owner Carolyn Rafaelian was also spotted in the front row of the crowd with CEO Giovanni Feroce.
“Carolyn and I support Pro-Growth, Pro-Business leaders," Feroce said in a statement. "It is our assessment that Mitt Romney would create the right conditions for us to prosper and continue to add hundreds of jobs.”
“It is always exciting to have a presidential candidate visit and campaign here in the city of Warwick,” said Avedisian. “I endorsed Governor Romney last year due to my previous work with members of his administration when he was governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I am hopeful that he will not only prevail on primary day but also leave the convention in August with great momentum.”
Romney’s speech zeroed in on freedom and the economy, citing Obama Care as a major reason for the fledgling economic recovery.
“The American people are going to have a choice. We’re going to have freedom on the ballot, and opportunity, and they’re going to decide whether we’re going to preserve those things, or not,” he said last week. “We need to provide for a powerful and growing middle class, help women get back to work, make sure we’re able to start new businesses again; we can remain the economic leader of the world … this is the future we can have.”
Hall said although the city’s GOP won’t announce their official endorsement of a candidate until next month, he’s personally backing Romney.
“We can’t do four more years of Obama,” said Hall, who endorses Romney. “The governor seems to be the best contender.”
Romney’s speech targeted Obama, saying he is causing separation in a country that is supposed to be “One nation, under God.”
This elicited a standing ovation from the 400 supporters who were allowed inside the town hall (an overflow of approximately 400 listened to the speech on a sound system in the hallway.)
“I truly enjoyed hearing from hopefully our next president and his plans for moving our country back to fiscal and economic stability,” said Mayor Fung.
After making his points, Romney took questions from the crowd. When asked if he would consider Santorum as a running mate, Romney said he wouldn’t exclude him from the list.
“The criteria is, first and foremost, is this a person who could be president of the United States if that were needed?” he said. “If any of the people I ran against happened to become the nominee, I would endorse them and support them as president, so of course they would be on that list, he among others.”
Then he paused to joke with the crowd. “If any of you have any other ideas, please pass them along.”
“I was impressed with his candor as he answered all questions directly and without hesitation,” said Fung. “After hearing him speak, particularly about his jobs plan, and meeting him briefly, I know that I made the right choice in supporting him to be the Republican candidate for president. I am proud to be running as a delegate for him for our party convention.”
The presidential primary on April 24 is open to Republicans and unaffiliated voters who affiliate with the Republican Party on the day of the election.
Although there is not a Democratic primary this year, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike can vote for delegates. Sixteen Republican delegates and 22 Democratic delegates will be chosen to go to their respective national conventions in the late summer and early fall.
In Warwick, there will be nine polling places (click here for a map).
Polls will open at 7 a.m. but will close one hour earlier than usual at 8 p.m. This year voters are also required to provide a photo ID.
Donna McDonald, director of elections for the Warwick Board of Canvassers, said a license, military ID or medical card will suffice. Those who arrive without an ID can still vote on a provisional ballot, which, once the identity of the voter is confirmed, will be counted.
The Rhode Island ballot for the Republican presidential primary will include candidates Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. The ballots, which were printed before his withdrawal on April 11, will also include Rick Santorum.
Hall encourages all Republicans to get out and vote on the 24th.
“It’s extremely important to vote,” said Hall. “We decide change. If we don’t go out and vote, change isn’t going to happen, and we’re going to continue to live in this economy. Every single vote counts.”