Clinton and Obama pursue Vermont’s delegates

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(Host) The presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are working hard to win delegates in Vermont’s Town Meeting Day primary.

At stake are 16 delegates to the Democratic National convention.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Sixteen delegates might not seem like a prize worth pursing. But the race between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton is so close that both campaigns are opening multiple offices in Vermont, they’re running TV and radio ads and they’re organizing volunteers to canvass the state.

In addition to the 16 delegates up for grabs in the primary, Vermont Democrats have nominated seven people as super delegates. The group includes: Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman Peter Welch, former governor Howard Dean, who’s now the chairman of the Democratic Party, and Vermont’s four representatives on the Democratic National Committee.

Billi Gosh is one of the super delegates and the only one who’s pledged to vote for Senator Clinton.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Gosh says there are a number of reasons why she’s backing the New York senator:

(Gosh) "I’m supporting her because of the depth of her knowledge of the issues that are affecting our country and because of her powerful intellect and because of the breadth of her experience. I’m also supporting her because she is a woman and I think she will be a terrific president."

(Kinzel) Chuck Ross is a super delegate who supports Senator Obama.

(Ross) "It’s clear to me that Senator Obama has stirred something in this country and a hunger in this country for the kind of change that he has represented by the people that he has brought to the polls to support him."

(Kinzel) Ross says there aren’t a lot of policy differences between Obama and Clinton. But he says Obama’s early opposition to the war in Iraq and Clinton’s initial vote to authorize the war highlights one major difference.

(Ross) "That was a decision and has had a ramification that affects everything in the Mideast. And Senator Obama, in my view, made the right decision to oppose the war in Iraq. And so I think that alone is a demonstration of his ability to make the right judgments, to make the right calls."

(Kinzel) Gosh says Clinton has been a strong opponent of the Iraq war in recent years and is backing a timetable to withdraw most U.S. troops.

Will either of the candidates visit Vermont in the coming days?

Gosh says she got a surprise phone call from Clinton on Wednesday night where this issue was discussed.

(Gosh) "She asked if there was anything that I needed and I said,`Yes, we really would love to have you or the president come to Vermont, no matter how briefly, to greet the voters and let us see you.’ And she said, `I think that can be done.’ So we will see."

(Kinzel) Both Ross and Gosh say it’s unlikely that the outcome of the Vermont primary will have much of an impact on their super delegate vote. Ross still plans to vote for Obama – Gosh will vote for Clinton.

They say the super delegates are supposed to reflect independent judgment and that’s what they intend to do at the convention this summer.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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