The most significant thing about Governor Shumlin’s first TV ad of 2014

The Shumlin campaign has taken to the airwaves with a 30-second commercial that features real-life Vermonters who have benefited from Shumlin initiatives. The aim of the ad is to remind viewers of the administration’s many accomplishments — to counteract the stream of bad news about Vermont Health Connect and the Department of Children and Families, and to remind liberal voters that the Governor has, indeed, delivered on many of his promises.

All he needs is rainbows and unicorns.

All he needs is rainbows and unicorns.

Pretty standard stuff, and it’s been duly reported in the media. But they haven’t noticed* the most significant thing about the launch: its timing.

*Correction: All but one of them failed to notice. Sevan Days’ Paul Heintz reported it two days before I did. That’s why they call him The Huntsman.

In 2012, the Shumlin campaign didn’t take to the airwaves until roughly two weeks before Election Day.

This year, the campaign hits your TV screens almost a full month earlier.

According to campaign finance reports, the Shumlin camp spent $125,000 on ad buys in 2012. Campaign manager Scott Coriell isn’t saying how much they’ll spend this year, but it figures to be a lot more.  They’ll be filling airtime for six weeks instead of two, so it’s fair to guess that they’ll triple their spending this year. Or more.

So, why?

In 2012 Shumlin faced an underfunded, underorganized, mismanaged opponent. Shumiin’s re-election was never in doubt. This year, he faces one opponent who’s far worse in all three categories, and another who represents a fringe viewpoint with a proven track record of appealing to a sliver of the electorate. Recent polls (and deeply flawed polls at that) notwithstanding, his re-election is once again in the bag.

But the Governor isn’t aiming his campaign at the broad electorate. He’s trying to pump up the base and generate higher turnout by core Democratic voters. Hence the reminders of popular Democratic initiatives.

If he can get a pure majority of the vote — at least 50% plus one — he’ll have a lot of political capital to spend in next year’s debate over single-payer health care.

But if he wins with a plurality and, worse case, he gets fewer votes than the Republican and Libertarian candidates combined, he’ll have a lot less pull with the Legislature. And right now, he’s polling in the mid-40s. He needs a boost.

Plus, of course, the higher his vote total, the more Dems and Progs will ride his coattails to victory. And he’ll need every liberal vote he can get, if single-payer is to pass next year.

That’s the significance of the early TV launch this year.

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