Rhode Islanders played their part in Obama's win


Rhode Island, with its mighty four electoral votes, is typically on the margins of presidential politics. Yet with our own New Hampshire-style presidential primary this year, and with scores of Rhode Islanders assisting Obama's campaign in various ways (traveling to New Hampshire, phone-banking, making contributions, etc.), the smallest state played a part in the Democrat's victory.

Many people contributed to this, of course. One of them, Ren Whitaker, was profiled earlier this year as a Phoenix local hero.

Like most people, Ren Whitaker had never felt compelled to get actively involved in the political process. That all changed when she heard Barack Obama make his acclaimed speech, highlighted by a vision of unity, during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Whitaker was so enamored of Obama’s message of change that she became a leading volunteer in his Rhode Island effort, spreading the word, organizing meetings, rallying other supporters, and all in all, typifying the grassroots support that has fueled the US senator from Illinois’s groundbreaking run. As part of her small business, Renbird Gifts (, Whitaker also donates $15 to the Democrat’s campaign for each $25 Obama T-shirt that she sells. ...

Pursuing a little Internet research, Whitaker realized that there was already a groundswell of Obama activity in Rhode Island, but that much of it was semi-underground or loosely organized.

She called and e-mailed just about every group she could find, and met with two fellow enthusiasts, Rhoades Alderson and Joseph Fernandez, at Blue State Coffee on Thayer Street, unaware at the outset that the respective Cicilline communications director and Providence city solicitor were already established on the political scene. Working with her boyfriend, David Stuebe, and Jill Harrington, (who subsequently won election as an Obama delegate from Congressional District 2), Whitaker formed an umbrella group, GObama RI, which helped to galvanize statewide support.

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