(Host) The campaign of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry says it’s cautiously optimistic that Kerry will win Vermont’s presidential primary. But supporters of former governor Howard Dean are urging voters to back Dean even though he’s no longer an active candidate.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Although there hasn’t been a lot of attention focused on the Vermont presidential primary as part of the Super Tuesday election, some political observers think the state’s primary could offer Howard Dean something that has eluded him thus far in this campaign season -a victory. Two weeks ago Dean dropped out of the race as an active candidate but he’s urging his supporters to remain involved in the political process, either by voting for him or one of the other Democratic candidates.
The Democratic race has essentially come down to two major candidates: Senator Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards. These two candidates will not compete in Vermont because several months ago Edwards chose not to be on the ballot here, probably because he expected Dean to still be in the race.
Jesse Connolly, who’s the state political director for John Kerry, thinks his candidate has a decent chance of winning the Vermont primary:
(Connolly) “There’s a good core group of supporters here in the state. A lot of people are really looking for the candidate that can beat George Bush and those people are really taking a hard look at Senator Kerry. We feel strongly about his chances here and the folks in Vermont are looking for a candidate that can beat George Bush and they believe that candidate is John Kerry.”
(Kinzel) Backers of Howard Dean are hoping that Vermonters will give Dean his first victory in the campaign season. John Bauer, who’s the vice chair of Vermonters for Dean, thinks the Vermont primary is a way for voters here to acknowledge how Dean’s candidacy changed the dynamics of the Democratic race:
(Bauer) “Foremost he showed the other Democratic candidates that you could speak against a wartime president, so to speak. He also brought health care to the table and caused all the other candidates to put together strong health care plans and to address the issue. He shook the party up and put a spine in place that’s necessary in the political debate.”
(Kinzel) Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, former General Wesley Clark, and perennial candidate Lyndon LaRouche are also on the Democratic presidential ballot in Vermont. Vermont has an open ballot system that allows voters to participate in any party primary election on Tuesday.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.