Huffpost Politics

Vermont Primary: Latest News, Polls On Democratic Race

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******Updated 3/4******

Read HuffPost's OffTheBus Superdelegate Investigation to find out more about the superdelegates who are likely to decide the Democratic nomination for president.

Obama, McCain Win Vermont Easily: The Burlington Free Press reports:

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain swept to easy victories today in Vermont's presidential primary.

Major television networks projected Obama and McCain as the winners just seconds after the polls closed at 7 p.m., basing their predictions on exit polling numbers collected from Vermonters as they left key voting precincts around the state.

Turnout for the primary was described as heavy by election officials around the state. It was unknown in the first hour after the polls closed whether Tuesday vote broke the presidential primary turnout record of 39 percent set in 1980.

Pre-election polls had indicated that Obama and McCain would win the state, but the outcome was being closely watched nationally. Vermont and the three other states with primaries Tuesday -- Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island -- will likely give McCain the GOP nominination outright and could position Obama as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Obama cut into every part of Hillary Clinton's base of supporters, including women, older voters and the working class, according to exit polls conducted for the AP and television networks.

He also won overwhelmingly among voters who thought the Iraq war was the most important issue facing the country, a key factor in Vermont.


Vermont May Be The Most Important State Of The Night

Marc Ambinder:

Why?

Barack Obama will win this Dean-inflection anti-war bastion handily.

Vermont will allocate 10 delegates based on the vote at the congressional district level and award three proportionally according to the statewide vote.

In all likelihood, Obama's delegate margin from Vermont will allow him to end this election night having earned a net of between six and ten delegates.

After the euphoria of potential Clinton popular vote victories in Ohio and Texas fades after 48 hours, the only number that will endure ... will be Obama's delegate margin in Vermont.

Early Exit Polls

Early exit poll data from the AP:

--Two-thirds of Vermont voters found Obama more inspirational than Clinton.
--Roughly six in ten of all Democratic voters said superdelegates should vote based on primaries and caucuses rather than personal opinions of the candidates.
--Four in ten voters in the Vermont Democratic primary were independents.

Read more here.

Deluge Of Ads

With the Democratic race so hotly contested, Vermont has seen its airwaves filled with ads as both Obama and Clinton wage aggressive campaigns in the state, seeking out every delegate they can find:

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have waged aggressive campaigns in the state, opening storefront offices and sending in paid staff from other primary states to help local volunteer efforts that were already under way.

The two campaigns have filled the state's airwaves with ads. A check of the four leading network television affiliates in Vermont found that Obama's campaign has spent in excess of $360,000 on television ads alone in the last two weeks. Clinton's campaign had spent more than $80,000.

Vermont Town Votes On Bush Indictment (via AP)

Voters in this southern Vermont town were deciding Tuesday whether to approve a measure calling for the indictment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on charges of violating the Constitution.

The symbolic article seeks to have police arrest Bush and Cheney if they ever visit Brattleboro or to extradite them for prosecution elsewhere _ if they're not impeached first.

"Our town attorney has no legal authority to draw up any papers to allow our police officers to do so," said Town Clerk Annette Cappy, "but the gentleman who initiated the petition got the signatures (and) wanted it on the ballot to make a statement."

A steady stream of voters paraded into the Brattleboro Union High School gym to cast their ballots on a day when school board elections and Vermont's presidential primary were also on the slate.

Record Turnout

Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz expects record turnout in today's Democratic primary:

Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz said Monday her office has sent out extra ballots to town clerks around the state in anticipation of what she expects will be a record turnout for today's Democratic presidential primary.

"We haven't had such a hotly contested race as this in our presidential primary for a long time," Markowitz said Monday. "Every delegate at this level matters. It's going to be very intense."

Markowitz said she decided early last month to up the number of ballots for the presidential primary by 25 percent after talking to colleagues in other states who told her stories of how they coped with record-breaking turnouts in their primaries.

Vermont Issues

Clinton and Obama discussed Vermont issues on the eve of the state's primary, including the controversial topic of nuclear power:

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama says he doesn't think aging nuclear power plants like the Vermont Yankee facility in Vernon should have their licenses extended until safety and nuclear waste storage issues are resolved.

"With respect to the plant in Vermont, until we get nuclear safety and storage issues worked out, I don't think we should be focused on the question of extending licenses," Obama said in an interview with The Burlington Free Press...

...Hillary Clinton, in a separate interview, stopped short of calling for a halt in relicensing older plants like Vermont Yankee, but counted herself as a sharp critic of nuclear power.

"I think those issues should be part of the relicensing process," Clinton said, referring to the safety and waste storage issues. "I'm not in favor of automatic relicensing, which is basically what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does."

Small State, Big Vote

Normally, Vermont receives little attention in presidential politics because the parties' nominees are usually chosen by the time the state holds its primary. This year is different. With Obama and Clinton hunting for delegates wherever they can, Vermont has a new significance:

But in the closest primary campaign in a generation, neither candidate can afford to surrender a single delegate, so both are devoting unprecedented attention to New England's smallest states...

...The Clinton camp has nine staffers there and is hosting phone-banking parties; Chelsea Clinton dropped by the University of Vermont in Burlington on Friday; and the campaign even sent a delegation of farmers from New York state across the border to talk with their Vermont neighbors about agricultural policy.

But Vermonters' excitement about Obama seems positively feverish. Hundreds of canvassers went door-to-door over the weekend. Staffers drove around in a couple of trucks, donated by Ben & Jerry's founders, decorated with a giant O and a picture of a cow. When the campaign recently asked Deb Shumlin, a jewelry-maker and the wife of state Senate President Peter Shumlin, to organize a small audience in Putney to listen to Anthony Lake, a former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton and now an Obama foreign policy adviser, the aim was to get 25 people. Shumlin was astounded when 325 people showed up.

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Polls

The latest Rasmussen Poll for the Vermont Democratic primary has Obama leading Clinton, 57% to 33%:

In Vermont, Barack Obama holds a commanding twenty-four point lead over Hillary Clinton with just over a week to go before the Primary. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey shows Obama with 57% of the vote while Clinton attracts only 33%.

Read here for more polls from Vermont.

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Voting Its Own Way

Vermont has always liked to thumb its nose at the establishment, and TIME takes a look at the state's history of independent voting:

There are swing states. There are bellwether states. And then there is Vermont.

The Green Mountain State was once an independent republic, and it still goes its own way; a 2007 statewide poll found 13% support for secession. Vermont was the only state to support the Anti-Masonic ticket in 1832, the only state except Utah to go for President Taft in 1912, the only state except nearby Maine to oppose President Roosevelt in 1936. No one has ever claimed that as Vermont goes, so goes the nation. So on Tuesday, when Vermont's voters go to the polls, the world will be watching -- Texas and Ohio.

That makes sense. Vermont has only 625,000 residents, and they aren't wrestling with most of the problems that are dominating the campaign. Vermont doesn't have many immigrants; it ranks last in the nation in foreclosures; it's consistently rated the healthiest state. But if the politics of Vermont doesn't tell us much about the politics of America, it is still quirky and intriguing.

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Delegates And Superdelegates

One local paper breaks down the way Vermont apportions its delegates and superdelegates:

The Green Mountain State will send both regu-lar Democratic delegates - party activists pledged to the will of the voters who cast ballots in the primary - and super delegates, statewide Democratic elected officials and party insiders who are not obligated to follow the popular vote.

In Vermont there are 16 regular delegates and seven super delegates. Those regular delegates are divided into 10 who are elected by district, three at-large delegates from across the state and, in a strange twist, one "mini super" delegate who is chosen like a regular delegate but can decide on their own who to support at the convention.

Most of the state's seven Democratic super delegates are supporting Obama, or leaning in his direction. Only one, Billi Gosh, has promised to support Clinton at the Democratic National Convention this summer. And one of the state's super delegates, former Gov. Howard Dean, is remaining neutral as the head of the Democratic National Committee.

All of this matters this year. If the race between Obama and Clinton remains as close as it is - and that is a big if - there is a chance Vermonters could help decide the nomination.

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Vermont And Howard Dean

One famous Vermonter is Howard Dean, now head of the Democratic National Committee, and Dean might be in the position to increase Vermont's influence in selecting the Democratic presidential nominee:

Super delegate Dean, as the head of his party, has also chosen some members of the DNC's Credentials Committee, including several of his old friends and allies from Vermont. That is the group that may be called on to decide whether Florida and Michigan delegates get to play a role after all. Those states' primaries were declared invalid after they moved them too early in the year.

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Vermont Primary Facts And Figures

U.S News & World Report
has a nice primer on Vermont's primary, including past winners, 2008 registration data, exit polling data from the 2004 election, and more. They also have "3 things you didn't know about the Vermont primaries." Here's one of them:

Michael Dukakis won the Vermont Democratic primary by a large margin in 1988. However, the contest was nonbinding--delegates would actually be determined a month later, in the party's caucuses. In the intervening weeks, Jesse Jackson made a strong challenge, ultimately winning just enough of the local contests to put him ahead in the caucus tally. At one caucus meeting, tensions were so high that Jackson supporter and independent Bernie Sanders, then mayor of Burlington (and a current Vermont senator), was slapped in the face by a party member who had questioned his right to participate.

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