Scott Milne’s unconventional campaign for governor continues to be a rousing success.
Well, it does if being unconventional is your goal. Otherwise, not so much. In fact, the time has come for one of my Bold Predictions: the Milne candidacy is a Dead Man Walking. He’ll (probably) survive the primary, but not only will he lose to Governor Shumlin, he’ll lose in a landslide of epic proportions.
I’d feel sorry for a guy who volunteered to take one for the team that couldn’t find a candidate of its own, and a guy who lost his mother and business partner in mid-campaign. But he’s done himself no favors. He’s been surprisingly inarticulate with the media and singularly unappealing in person. He’s shedding potential supporters at an alarming rate, and he’s had virtually no success at in-state fundraising.
Milne’s decision to pull out of a debate sponsored by the Essex Republicans had one predictable effect: it pissed off the Essex Republicans who, per VTDigger, voted 97% for Libertarian Dan Feliciano in a straw poll.
Not that I’m buying into the low-level media narrative of a Feliciano groundswell; he’s not going to win the Republican primary, simply because it’s so hard for a write-in to beat someone whose name is on the ballot. And when VTDigger bruited the notion that “Feliciano has started to gain traction among [VTGOP] stalwarts,” the only names it could name were Darcie “Hack” Johnston and El Jefe General John McClaughry. That’s a start, I guess, but not a very impressive one. Johnston’s a proven loser with no electoral appeal, and McClaughry’s a crank. A personable fellow, but a crank.
But I can see why the narrative exists; Milne’s making such a dog’s breakfast of his campaign that, if not for Feliciano, there’d be precious little to report. But it’s not that Feliciano is surging; it’s that Milne continues to diminish like the tide at Fundy, leaving a thin film of sludge on the beach behind him.
But tonight’s the beginning of Milne’s second life: a “tele-town hall,” in which some number of Vermonters will presumably give up 90 minutes of their time to hear a brief address by Milne and maybe, possibly ask a question – if they pass muster with the event’s moderator, Milne’s two children. Cozy!
The event was preceded by a mass robo-call to 30,000 households inviting their participation. Event and robo-call presumably arranged by the good folks at Colorado-based Telephone TownHall Meeting, “Maximizing Results With Personalized Services” according to its website. Those services include tele-town halls and the preceding robo-calls, as they cheerfully describe:
As with our teletownhalls, we manage the details so you don’t have to. From script-writing to execution – TTHM produces a quality voice broadcast every time. We edit your robocall audio for quality & clarity, and will even make the recording for you if you prefer.
No muss, no fuss. Which befits the off-the-rack style of the Milne effort. As the saying goes, there’s fast, cheap, and good. You can have any two you want, but you can’t get all three. Well, the Milne campaign has opted for fast and cheap. In addition to the prefab Town Hall, there’s the candidate’s first TV ad – consisting entirely of footage from his campaign launch event at Barre’s Aldrich Public Library.
The ready-madeness of the effort is understandable, considering the meager resources at campaign manager Brent Burns’ disposal. (Resources made even more meager once Burns pays himself his own consulting fees.) But not exactly the way to build a mass movement in a matter of months.
Money doesn’t buy everything, it’s true; and Milne supporters keep pointing to the stunning loss by Eric Cantor as proof. But Cantor was both rich and clueless, which Governor Shumlin is not; and Cantor’s opponent tapped into an existing reservoir of appeal, which Milne doesn’t have. And by appearances, he wouldn’t know how to tap if he had the chance.
So, done. Over. Finito.
Again, I feel bad for saying so; Scott Milne is a good businessman who’s grown his family business in tough times. But he’s turned out to be an appalling politician. I would have expected somewhat better, even for a near-novice, because he’s done well in a service profession. He must have some ability to communicate. But he hasn’t shown it since he entered politics.
And time, never his ally to begin with, has run out.