Vermont’s no presidential battleground, but troops abound

In a second-floor office on Burlington’s College Street, the campaign of one well-known candidate has been toiling under the radar for months.

Of course Barack Obama won’t have to sweat election-night results in Vermont, where voters in 2008 delivered him a more lopsided victory than in anywhere but his home state of Hawaii. So why is Obama for America pouring precious resources into a paid staffer and office rent here? It’s all about that swing state directly to our east.

“Want to make sure we have an apparatus in place to organize volunteers and get out the vote in places where it’s going to be closer,” says Mike Czin, spokesman for Obama for America.

According to Czin, Obama’s field organization here has nothing to with winning votes in Vermont and everything to do with getting out the vote in New Hampshire. Today, an army of Obama supporters from Vermont will jump the Connecticut River to execute a well-coordinated get-out-the-vote effort in the Granite State.

“We have a robust ground game across the state and what folks are working on in Vermont today, and have been working on for several months, is making sure President Obama gets elected,” Czin said. “And the best way to do that is to help make sure we get out the vote next door in the Granite State.”

Dotty Kyle is among the hundreds of Vermont volunteers devoting their energy to swaying electoral results in New Hampshire. The 76-year-old Obama supporter is holed up today in a makeshift phone bank set up in her hometown of Warren.

“I’m not physically going to New Hampshire, but I’m manning the phone bank all day long and am the dispatcher for the Valley Champs team,” Kyle said by phone.

The Valley Champs, as they call themselves, is a team of more than 100 Obama for America volunteers from Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Moretown, some of whom have been working on the reelection campaign since March. Other Obama teams have organized elsewhere across the state.

Dan Mulligan, Vermont director for Obama for America, coordinates the effort from his office in Burlington. He referred interview requests to Czin.

When Kyle isn’t phoning registered voters in New Hampshire today, urging them to get out and vote, Kyle will be coordinating the movements of the two two-person teams that the Valley Champs have on the ground canvassing in New Hampshire.

“We’re calling voters in New Hampshire from the call list we’ve been given by our headquarters to encourage people who have not yet gotten to the polls, to get the heck out there and do it,” Kyle said.

Kyle isn’t unfamiliar with the New Hampshire canvassing scene. She and some fellow Valley Champs did their first “road trip” on April 15 and have been banging on Granite state doors when they can ever since.

“We’re all strong supporters of President Obama, and understand that his work is far from finished and we want him to have a chance to finish it,” Kyle said.

Jack Lindley, chairman of the Vermont GOP and de facto point man for Romney for President in Vermont, said the Republican presidential candidate doesn’t have any paid staff in Vermont. The campaign’s get-out-the-vote machine is focused chiefly, Lindley said, on the pro-Republican robo-calls that have been dialing Vermont households of late.

“We’ve got our Victory offices up and running and that’s how you get out your vote,” Lindley said. “That’s essentially our biggest contribution to the Romney campaign in Vermont, is the (five) Victory offices.”

Kyle credits Vermont’s small-pond politics for fueling the volunteer effort for Obama.
“I think that Vermonters are aware of their rights, their duties and their privileges as citizens because we’re so close to our own democratic process,” Kyle said. “We can buttonhole peter Shumlin and have a conversation with him. Our elected officials from top to bottom are accessible, and it makes it easy for us to be involved and aware. And I feel sorry people in more populated areas that don’t have that opportunity.”

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