Bernie Sanders is expected to win his home turf, Vermont, by a landslide margin over Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's Democratic primary, but Clinton is not throwing in the towel.
"Clearly, Bernie Sanders is going to take Vermont," acknowledged former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, a vocal Clinton backer.
Kunin, however, has been doing what she can to rally support for the former secretary of state, despite the uphill climb reflected in the findings of a recent poll conducted for Vermont Public Radio by the Castleton Polling Institute.
The poll, which surveyed voters who said they were likely to participate in the Democratic primary, showed Sanders leading Clinton, 78 to 13 percent. That VPR poll was conducted between Feb. 3-17, with a total of 895 responses and a margin of error of 3.3 percent.
"But it doesn't mean you lie down and give up," Kunin told necn. "It means you still have to encourage the Clinton supporters who are here, and hopefully, earn some delegates to the Democratic Convention."
Kunin described Clinton as the most qualified candidate in the field from either party, with impressive foreign policy chops who is ready to assume the responsibilities of the Oval Office on day one. Describing some of her chosen candidate's priorities, Kunin said she is looking to Clinton to build bridges in Washington to raise incomes and fight for affordable child care, equal pay for equal work and paid medical leave.
"She is the person who is the most capable to be president," Kunin said.
The Democrats are competing for 26 Vermont delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Ten of the Vermont delegates are so-called "super delegates," top party leaders like Vermont Democrats Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has voiced support for Clinton, and Rep. Peter Welch, who recently said he is behind Sanders.
The other 16 delegates will be awarded proportionally based on vote totals from citizens participating in the Vermont primary, explained Christina Amestoy of the Vermont Democratic Party. To qualify for any of those delegates, Clinton must win at least 15 percent of the Vermont vote Tuesday, Amestoy added.
"The magic number you'll be looking for as you watch the results come in is to see if Hillary Clinton reaches that 15 percent," Amestoy told necn.
The Vermont Democratic Party said it will not get behind a specific candidate until after the Democratic National Convention. Amestoy said Vermont Democrats have two excellent candidates to choose from between Clinton and Sanders.
Amestoy noted that it has been clear for some time that Sanders will win Vermont, but she said Clinton supporters have been calling the party offices looking for ways to help them support their candidate.
"They may not be as loud as the Bernie supporters here in Vermont, but there definitely are Clinton supporters out there," Amestoy noted.
To try to reach or exceed that 15 percent threshold, Clinton's campaign is relying primarily on direct mailings and grassroots organizers willing to knock on doors in Sanders territory, said Clinton campaign spokeswoman Julie McClain.
"We're having canvasses this coming weekend and phone banks across the state, as we did last weekend in our 'weekend of action,'" McClain said, adding that efforts are underway statewide, fanning out from major communities such as Rutland, Burlington, Montpelier and Brattleboro.
A Clinton organizing meeting Wednesday featured a visit from Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY's List, a national group that works to get pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.
In response to an necn question about Clinton's efforts in Sanders’ backyard, Schriock said, "Hillary Clinton said from the very first that she was going to fight for every single vote in this country, and that's precisely what she's doing."
Another indication of the size of the challenge in Clinton's way in Vermont is the result of a survey released in November 2015 from Morning Consult, which showed Sanders has the highest approval rating of any United States Senator in the country, among the Senators’ own constituents, at 83 percent.
Still, Kunin said she strongly believes there are Clinton supporters in Vermont that grassroots volunteers can reach and energize to vote in the primary.
"It's not as lonely as you might think," Kunin said of being a Clinton voter in Vermont.