Vermont is one of the most outspokenly liberal states in the Union. Its tiny size and progressive politics mean it is not usually paid much attention in presidential contests. But its quirky politics gained national attention when Howard Dean, a former governor, became the Democratic presidential front-runner early in the race before losing to John Kerry in Iowa.
Much of that attention has focused on what makes Vermont different, in particular the state's environment and progressive ethos, typified by its most famous export, Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
Population: 608,827 (ranked 49 among states)
Governor: James Douglas (R)
Electoral College votes: 3
It is also the only state to have an independent congressman, the left-wing Bernie Sanders. In 2000, he was joined by one of the state's US Senators, Jim Jeffords, who had seemed increasingly out of place in the Republican Party.
This is characteristic of a state which was once a centre of Yankee Republicanism and now sits squarely on the left. In addition to zoning laws restricting billboard advertising, gimmicky commercialism and much of the other paraphernalia of modern living, it also has laws restricting campaign spending and limiting contributions.
House of Representatives:
Senate: 1 Democrat, 1 Independent (elected Republican but votes with the Democrats)
The dominant progressive constituency is based in Burlington and surrounding Chittenden County and Democrats dominate the central stretch of land along interstates 89 and 91.
Vermont's postcard prettiness is a mixture of snowy mountains, brooding lakes and maple syrup. It charges high taxes to keep the state the way it is and this has made it an attractive retreat for big city liberal migrants looking for rural serenity.
This makes the state unusually wealthy, and with IBM and other hi-tech facilities based there alongside Vermont's traditional cottage industries and tourism, its economy has grown rapidly. It has one of the lowest poverty rates in the nation.
2000: Bush 41%, Gore 51%
1996: Clinton 53%, Dole 31%, Perot 12%
1992: Clinton 46%, Bush 30%, Perot 23%
This independence runs through the state's history. After the British were beaten, Vermont was an independent republic for 14 years and in subsequent decades resisted the temptation to develop large labour-intensive industries.