With Only 17 Delegates, Vt. Primary Gets Little Attention From Candidates

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(Host) Vermont has 17 delegates at stake in today’s Super Tuesday primary, the lowest number up for grabs in the 10-state contest.

As VPR’s John Dillon reports, only Mitt Romney has made an effort to compete in the state.

(Dillon) None of the candidates have campaigned in Vermont. But former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney opened an office, won some legislative endorsements and dispatched former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu to appear on his behalf.

A recent poll showed Romney leads former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 7 percentage points. But the goal for Romney is not just to win the crowded primary, but to top 50 percent. If a candidate falls below 50 percent, the delegates are divided proportionately. Retired Middlebury Political Science Professor Eric Davis says above 50 percent and it’s winner take all.

(Davis) "So Mitt Romney wants to clear that 50 percent threshold so he can get all 17 delegates that are at stake."

(Dillon) Vermont has an open primary process, so Democrats and independents can vote in the GOP primary.

Some observers expect Ron Paul to make a strong showing because his anti-war message resonates with the state’s independent voters. Rich Clark is the director of the Castleton Polling Institute at Castleton State College. He says Paul gets support from younger voters as well.

(Clark) "His appeal to young people on college campuses all around has been well-noted, I mean not just in Vermont but around the country."

(Dillon) There’s also a Democratic primary, but President Barrack Obama is the only name on the ballot.

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

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