Dean volunteers adjust to post-primary landscape

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(Host) For hundreds of Vermonters who have volunteered to work on the Dean campaign, Tuesday night was an ending of sorts. Many had spent months working to win over voters in New Hampshire.

VPR’s Steve Zind stopped in at a gathering of Dean supporters in Brattleboro Tuesday night.

(Volunteer) “It’s really great that you came tonight. Thanks everybody and stick around, have some chicken wings…”

(Zind) It’s been a hard week for these campaign volunteers. After enjoying weeks when Dean was leading in the polls they found themselves struggling last week, disappointed in the Iowa caucus results and frustrated with the attention paid to Dean’s caucus night speech.

Tuesday night they waited – watching the returns on a big screen television at a Brattleboro hotel and hoping for better news. Deb Brown has spent time canvassing in New Hampshire. At first she thought she’d watch the results at home.

(Brown) “I was sitting home. I knew this was going on, I was toying with whether to come or not. And, oh, there’s a poll with Dean ahead, that’s pretty exciting! I just couldn’t stand being alone, I was too anxious.”

(Zind) For one 82-year-old volunteer, the day had started 12 hours earlier rounding up votes in New Hampshire.

(Volunteer) “We wound up running phone banks and collating voter lists and calling and checking them off and seeing if they need visits and this and that.”

(Zind) As the tally in New Hampshire mounted, it became clear that Dean would not finish as close to John Kerry as some had hoped. Disappointing results for some.

(Volunteer) “Yes. They are – after all of our hard work.”

(Zind) But if the results weren’t what many had hoped for, they were enough to make sure the campaign continues. And when Dean appeared on the big screen in an interview with Larry King, the group responded.

(Dean, on TV) “We intend to change this country. We’re not in this just to change presidents.” (Volunteers applaud)

(Zind) Franz Reichsman is a Brattleboro physician and one of the early Vermont organizers for Dean. Reichsman is uncertain about what comes next for Vermont volunteers who have been focusing for so long on the New Hampshire Primary.

(Reichsman) “It’s definitely the end of a big phase of the Dean campaign, at least for local people here. And what we do next is not completely clear. We will of course focus on Vermont for our own primary. What we’ll do in the bigger campaign, we’ll have to talk about.”

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Brattleboro.

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