Heated battle for Democratic nomination

03/04/08 8:42PM

Vermont voters went to the polls today in a presidential primary given new relevance by a heated battle for the Democratic nomination.

For the first time in recent memory, the state's primary held the same day as primaries in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island was expected to play a role in the selection of the Democratic candidate.

Said voter John Sherman, of Hartford: "Vermont used to be a beauty pageant. It used to be decided by the time it got here but now, tiny little Vermont has a say in the outcome."

Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigned heavily in the weeks leading up to the Democratic primary, airing television and radio ads and mounting get-out-the-vote drives in hopes of winning the 15 convention delegates at stake Tuesday.

Thousands of new voter registrations were received just before last week's deadline and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says she hopes turnout will exceed the state's all-time primary record of 39 percent, set in 1980.

Polls are open until 7 p.m.

The Iraq war loomed large for voters in the Democratic primary, according to exit polls taken for The Associated Press and television networks.

Given a choice of the war, economy and health care, about four in 10 voters said the war was the most important issue facing the country. About the same amount that said the economy was most important.

Vermont is the only state so far this year to rate the war so high. In every other Democratic primary, more voters have said the economy was the important issue facing the country, the exit polls said.

Vermont voters continued their liberal and independent streaks. About two-thirds of voters in the Democratic primary described themselves as liberal; about two in five identified themselves as independents, the polls said.


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