Obama first to qualify for Vt. presidential primary

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(Host) Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama became the first candidate this afternoon to qualify for Vermont’s presidential primary.

And new campaign finance reports show that Obama has raised more money in Vermont than all the other Democratic and Republican candidates combined.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports…

(Kinzel) More than a thousand petition signatures were hand delivered to the Secretary of State’s office by Jane Stetson, who serves as a co chair of the Obama presidential campaign in Vermont.

Stetson says volunteers throughout the state gathered the petitions over the past few months.

Stetson says she thinks there’s a lot of enthusiasm in Vermont for senator Obama’s positive message for change:

(Stetson)"I think he has a message of hope and inclusiveness mixed with an ability to change the way we do business I think Barack really resonates change when he speaks."

(Kinzel) This was a theme that Obama highlighted in an appearance for Bernie Sanders’ U.S. Senate campaign in late 2005 at the University of Vermont:

(Obama) "The only question is, are you able to slough off your cynicism and are you able to reengage are you willing to say to yourself: ‘you know what, for all the disappointments I see and all the challenges that we face I still have a sense of hope’. Ultimately that’s what you need – you need some hope."

(Kinzel) New campaign finance reports show that Obama has raised more than $330,000 from Vermont donors. It’s an amount that dwarfs the total of the second highest candidate, Republican Mitt Romney, who’s raised just over $44,000.

Only Howard Dean has raised more money than Obama from Vermont donors in a presidential campaign.

Vi Coffin is a long time Democratic Party official and a former chair of the party. Why is Coffin supporting Obama?

(Coffin)"I think he’s a real breath of fresh air in the way he speaks and his ability to stir up an audience and to go beyond the usual bash Bush type of dialogue."

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says the profile of Obama’s supporters in Vermont is very similar to those in other states:

(Davis)"Senator Obama does best among affluent professional Democrats and those are the people who tend to make the large financial contributions and that’s what we’re seeing here in Vermont. While Obama is certainly raising a lot of small contributions in $25, $50, $100 range, he’s also raising a fair number of 4- figure contributions from more affluent Vermonters."

(Kinzel) Davis questions the importance of the March 4, 2008 primary in Vermont because he believes that one of the leading candidates will have locked up the nomination by that time.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.


AP Photo/David Lienemann

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