Vermont’s primary may have some clout

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(Host) With a close race in the Democratic presidential contest, voters in Vermont’s March 4th primary may have some clout.

The campaigns for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are gearing up for the Town Meeting Day vote.

They say they’re ready to make the transition from a volunteer effort to one that may be staffed by campaign organizers.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) 444 Democratic delegates are up for grabs. Two big states – Texas and Ohio – are voting that day. Then there’s Rhode Island. And there’s Vermont.

(Kunin) I think the word of the day after Super Tuesday is that every delegate will count.

(Dillon) Former Governor Madeleine Kunin backs Hillary Clinton. She says Vermont’s 23 delegates will play a deciding role in the nominating contest.

(Kunin) Vermont‘s primary will be significant. How significant is hard to say. But we will certainly get more attention than we had anticipated.

(Dillon) The Clinton and Obama campaigns in Vermont are now run by volunteers, with advice from headquarters.

For example, the Clinton campaign has asked local coordinators to help set up phone banks in Vermont to get out the vote in March,

It’s mostly a virtual campaign – supporters stay in touch via email and web sites. There are yet no store front offices or paid staff members.

That may change if the national campaigns decide the state is important enough to spend the money here.

Caroline Dwyer is Democratic political consultant who’s worked on several statewide campaigns. She’s volunteering for Obama.

(Dwyer) We’re hoping to hear in the next few days whether they will assign a staff person. But either way we’re prepared to mount an effort, not in New Hampshire or Massachusetts as we’ve done in the past, but in our home state of Vermont.

(Dillon) The Democratic campaigns are also waiting to hear if their candidates will visit the state. Rhode Island’s 32 delegates are at stake the same day, so it’s possible the candidates will synchronize trips to both states.

On the Republican side, John McCain is considered the favorite, although Mitt Romney has good name recognition because he was governor of Massachusetts.

The GOP campaigns are also run by volunteers.

Vermont’s role in the presidential race is welcome news for Washington County Senator Bill Doyle. In 1976, Doyle backed legislation to create the first Vermont presidential primary in more than 50 years.

(Doyle) Now we’re into the most exciting primary of them all. A historic primary…. For the first time a woman has a legitimate chance to win the presidency. So does an African American. And the voter turnout is going to shatter all records. Younger people will vote more than ever before. The eyes of the world are on this primary.

(Dillon) The Vermont primary election will determine the delegates that are sent to the national convention. The delegates are selected in proportion to the votes their candidates receive.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.



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