NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island had its first visit by a sitting president in more than six years on Wednesday, but the commander-in-chief didn’t spend much time in the Ocean State.
After departing from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Air Force One landed at Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown around 9:45 a.m.
President Biden then left for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where he gave a speech at the academy’s commencement ceremony.
Following the ceremony, Biden returned to Rhode Island and boarded Air Force One to return to Washington. He made no unscheduled stops on the trip.
Gov. Dan McKee, a Democrat who was one of Biden’s earliest supporters in Rhode Island, was one of three local officials who welcomed the president on the tarmac at the airport, according to a pool report. The governor was joined by Rhode Island National Guard Commanding Gen. Christopher Callahan and 143rd Airlift Wing Commander Col. Adam Wiggins.
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The president’s stop in Rhode Island comes just two weeks after Vice President Kamala Harris spent a day in the state discussing small businesses alongside Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
Before Wednesday, Biden’s most recent visit to Rhode Island was in the fall of 2019, when he held a fundraiser for his presidential campaign at a private home in Providence.
Biden’s predecessor — Donald Trump — never visited Rhode Island during his four years in the White House, but he did hold a campaign rally in Warwick as a candidate in 2016.
The last time a sitting president visited Rhode Island was in October 2014, when President Obama landed at T.F. Green Airport. That trip included campaign stops with Raimondo, a fellow Democrat who was then seeking her first term as governor. Obama had also visited the state in the fall of 2010 when then-gubernatorial nominee Frank Caprio made his infamous “shove it” comment.
The last president to fly into Quonset Airport was Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who landed there before making a speech at the Naval War College in Newport touting his Iraq strategy. Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush also visited Rhode Island during their presidencies.
Debra Mulligan, a history professor at Roger Williams University, said Rhode Island sees relatively few visits from presidents in part due to its small size — with only four Electoral College votes — and its reliable support for Democratic nominees in recent decades.
“It really does depend on personal and political reasons why a president would come,” she said.
Still, Mulligan noted Rhode Island has seen visits from most presidents over the last century, dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s time in office from 1933 to 1945. A high point for the state was in the 1950s and ’60s, when Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy both stayed in Newport regularly during the summer.
“I do think that presidents will come when they feel the need because there’s some sort of connection to the state – whether it be political, economic, or it could be a personal reason – they know people here, they have relatives, friends, what have you,” she said.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram