Some Obama Supporters Scale Back Expectations

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(Host) Vermont voted more heavily for Barack Obama in 2008 than any other state but Hawaii – the president’s home state. Obama ran three years ago as a candidate promising bold change. But in his first term he’s been criticized for being too moderate. Now, as VPR’s Kirk Carapezza reports, some of his most ardent supporters say they’re ready to readjust to a more measured candidate Obama.

(Carapezza) Hundreds of Obama supporters wait outside a South Burlington hotel for a campaign fundraiser featuring Michelle Obama. Security is tight, the line snakes around the block, and the first lady won’t appear for another two or three hours. But nobody in line seems to mind.

(George Gay) "I’m really excited that the First Lady is coming to Vermont and I want to experience a little bit of her energy."

(Carapezza) That’s George Gay. He arrived here from Stowe with his wife to see Mrs. Obama. Like seemingly everyone else in line, he plans to vote for the president again in 2012.

(Gay) "I’m so impressed with where the president has taken the country since 2008. (Carapezza) Has he been bold enough? (Gay) Yeah, I think he’s moved us forward on health care. I think he has moved us forward in a way that certainly exceeded my expectations and the expectations of many people who really had the best interest of the country in mind."

(Carapezza) But one issue Gay would like to see the president move on more aggressively is climate change. That’s something the president hasn’t talked a lot about. And that’s drawn criticism among some supporters, including many in line here, who’ve seen record flooding this spring on Lake Champlain.

Carol Conard of South Burlington says she wishes the president would step up on climate change as well as same-sex marriage.

(Conard) "It’s certainly progressing slowly. It’s not quite as bold as the promises made during the campaign, but I think that’s always the case. And I think that there’s a lot of leadership, and it might not look as bold, and I think it’s very well measured and well considered. I think he’s a very intelligent politician."

(Carapezza) Polls last year showed Obama was still more popular in Vermont than almost anywhere else in the country. But despite his popularity, some staunch supporters have been disappointed with the president’s priorities.

Some pundits say that could make it difficult for the president’s campaign to bring in the $1 billion it may need to win a re-election.

Whether Obama can reach that goal may still be an open question elsewhere. But at the president’s Vermont fundraising events, there was little doubt.

Erik Tyrell-Knott works for GE Health Care in South Burlington. Standing in line, he says he donated twice to the Obama campaign in 2008, and he will again. Although he wishes the president were a little more progressive in cutting military spending, he says the important thing is that the president is effective.

(Tyrell-Knott) "You know, actually driving change. I think he’s probably hedging his bets in his first term. He gets elected his second term. And he can hopefully be more aggressive and more effective on those fronts. We’ve given once this time and maybe we’ll give again."

(Carapezza) Inside the hotel, First Lady Michelle Obama ended her pep talk to small-dollar donors by saying, "I’m going to ask you one last question, Vermont: Are you all in?"

Their answer was a standing ovation. And the Obama campaign set a political fundraising record for a single day in Vermont.

For VPR News, I’m Kirk Carapezza.


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