Rutland, Vt.—“You know what sucks about this winter?
There’s been little snow and the ground is hard making it really
difficult to put yard signs in the ground,” says Steven Howard.
Howard and a group of Ron Paul supporters are taking a break
from canvasing Rutland neighborhoods to put up a massive Paul sign
on a vacant house owned by a local supporter. As soon as Howard
detaches the two-part sign big fluffy snowflakes start falling from
the sky at a pretty rapid clip. I put my Red Sox winter cap on to
cover my head.
“How do you think we’ll do this year?” one of the volunteers
“I’ll be happy if we make the playoffs, get a wild card spot.
The divison is out of the question,” I answer.
The Paul effort in Vermont has a similar attitude. Paul
supporters recognize that it's
unlikely they will win the state but they still believe they
have a chance to be competitive. In order for Paul to get any
delegates in the Green Mountain State on Super Tuesday, he needs to
crack 20 percent
statewide according to Vermont Republican Party rules. Howard,
an attorney and one of the main Paul organizers in the state, is
taking every step he can to make sure that happens and to improve
on Paul's dismal third-place Vermont finish in 2008.
After setting up the massive sign, Howard and his wife, Maria,
head back to the parking lot outside the Godnick Adult
Center to meet up with other volunteers Howard organized to
walk neighborhoods earlier in the day. Most had positive responses
to share and were done for the day but Howard and Vietenam veteran
John Kennedy, 66, decided to go one more street before the day was
over. They split the street and conducted what they called “knock
and run” canvassing, an abbreviated form of door-to-door
campaigning. “I think we’ve hit probably two-thirds of Rutland
already,” says Howard after briefly talking to a voter and handing
her a flyer.
Paul supporters have divided the state into northern and
southern regions, with Jessica Bernier taking the northern half of
the state and Howard taking the southern portion of the state.
While these grassroots efforts have been aided by the formal Paul
campaign’s recent ad buys in the state, for the most part Howard
and Bernier have handled all of this on their own.
“They started giving us lists last Thursday and we were into
Voter Tracker by the end of the week. It's good to have because it
gives you a starting point when you are canvasing but we don't have
any ID'd Ron Paul voters in this state right now, so we have no way
to run a true Get Out The Vote effort,” Bernier says.
“I did way more canvasing in New Hampshire than I have in
Vermont because we had more lists there. It’s a totally different
animal, a totally different demographic here. We’re much more
liberal and much more libertarian here,” she added.
The Paul campaign's official coordinators from New Hampshire,
Jordan Brown and Jared Chaicoine, have been active in Vermont since
the end of efforts in New Hampshire, much to the surprise of Howard
and Bernier. Both Vermont activists said that they did not expect
the official Paul campaign to get involved in Vermont at all, but
are certainly happy with the campaign's contributions.
“It’s been a total surprise, we were thinking about this back in
October. We were not counting on them coming in and helping us,”
In 2008, soon-to-be
Republican nominee John McCain won the state with 71 percent of the
vote. Mike Huckabee and Paul finished far behind with 14 percent
and 6 percent, respectively. The
only current polling data available on Vermont shows Mitt
Romney with 34 percent, Rick Santorum with 27 percent, Paul with 14
percent, and Newt Gingrich with 10 percent.
Howard is optimistc about Paul's chances on Super Tuesday and
thinks he will definitely hit 20 percent.
"I think there's a chance he could take the state," he says.
Correction: This post has been updated with a quote from
Bernier on Paul's GOTV efforts in Vermont.