(Host) Hundreds of Vermont volunteers canvassed across Iowa over the weekend to support the presidential campaign of Howard Dean.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel traveled with one group as they knocked on doors in a residential neighborhood in Des Moines.
(Kinzel) The heart of the Dean volunteer effort is an old car dealership located in the downtown business district of Des Moines. The large rooms are packed with team leaders who are barking last minute instructions to hundreds of volunteers who are preparing to canvass throughout the city and its suburbs. The volunteers will hand deliver campaign materials to thousands of households and try to identify likely supporters for tonight’s caucuses.
Erik Esselstyn, of Hartland Four Corners, drove his red van from Vermont to Iowa six days ago. Esselstyn says he felt he could no longer sit on the sidelines for the 2004 presidential race:
(Esselstyn) “I’m a grandfather, I’ve got a little granddaughter that’s going to live a whole century and what’s happening now in terms of the debt, in terms of the environment, in terms of individual rights – it’s just not the direction that this country ought to go in, in my mind. I’m here to make a difference.”
(Kinzel) It’s a cold day in Iowa, and as the volunteers go door to door, they have a hard time finding registered Democrats. But then Esselstyn hits pay dirt when he convinces an undecided voter to support Dean at her local caucus:
(Canvasser) “Let me give you a piece of literature about governor Dean. Do you think you can go?”
(Voter) “I will go.”
(Canvasser) “That’s wonderful!”
(Kinzel) David Horgan of Rutland thinks it’s very important for Iowa voters to hear directly from Vermonters about Dean’s record on health care and fiscal issues:
(Horgan) “And these are things that we should share with the whole country so that we have people who understand that although we’re the smallest populated state in the Union we nonetheless have ideas which belong to the entire community of the United States.”
(Kinzel) Rose Levine of Montpelier, is a college student on her winter break. Levine is not discouraged by the number of people who are still evaluating the candidates:
(Levine) “A great number of people are committed to being undecided and want to decide at the caucus. They like the caucus format and some guy told me to call him up on the 20th and he’d tell me who he supported!”
(Kinzel) With energy and enthusiasm, Levine climbs the steps of another home in the hope of identifying a Dean supporter:
(Levine) “She’s 80 years old, I don’t know if she can hear the door. So if they’re not home we try to leave a personal note and I say that I came from Vermont usually, So I wrote, ‘Hi Norma, sorry I missed you. Hope you’ll caucus for Dean on Monday. Rose from Vermont.”
(Kinzel) As the Vermont volunteers finish their assignments in this neighborhood, they regroup in their red van and head out for another round of door to door campaigning.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Des Moines.