Daily Archives: November 5, 2014

So what happened with the polls?

Ah, the opinion polls, with their oft-trumpeted 4% margins of error.

Well, they missed the Governor’s race by a lot more than that, didn’t they?

The consensus, such as it was, gave Governor Shumlin a 12-point edge. Right now, the Associated Press has him at 46.4% and Scott Milne at 45.4%. Feel free to check my math, but I think that’s a margin of one percent. 

The polls were off by almost 11 percentage points.

The difference? Virtually every undecided voter went for Scott Milne. Which is unheard-of; usually, the undecideds don’t all go stampeding in one direction.

Plus, the Associated Press is reporting that Vermont had a record low turnout. The Democratic GOTV machine just couldn’t overcome the broad disaffection with the current administration, and the widespread belief that this election wasn’t close, which made it easier to stay home.

So, Milne got a larger chunk of a smaller electorate.

Let’s take the most recent Castleton Polling Inistute survey, reported on Oct.12.


From Oct. 12 to last night, what happened? Governor Shumlin lost a sliver of his support while convincing no undecideds. Scott Milne gained a whopping ten percent by nabbing all the undecideds and poaching nearly two-thirds of Dan Feliciano’s supporters.

What does that say? It says that Governor Shumlin lost the middle, in spite of all his triangulating. And he lost ALL of the middle. And, I suspect, a fair bit of support on the left, who either sat out the Governor’s race or made a protest vote for Milne or a write-in. (Doug Racine, anyone?)

Or just stayed home, not feeling motivated to re-elect Shumlin and feeling (falsely) secure in the knowledge that their absence wouldn’t make much difference in what was thought to be a Democratic cakewalk.


A few numbers, submitted for your consideration

Note: This is a thorough update of an earlier post. I’ve switched from VPR’s numbers to the Secretary of State’s unofficial numbers. The SoS has fewer precincts reporting, but for some reason the VPR returns don’t include the Auditor’s race. I wanted to include Doug Hoffer, so I went to the SoS numbers to provide a consistent base.


Which of these things is not like the others?







No, this is not a trick question. The answer is 86,808.

And where do these numbers come from, boys and girls?

They are the vote totals for the six victorious statewide Democratic (and Prog/Dem) candidates.

The first is Auditor Doug Hoffer, who had no opponents on the ballot. After that we have Secretary of State Jim Condos, Treasurer Beth Pearce, Congressman Peter Welch, and Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

And then, badly trailing the field, is Governor Peter Shumlin.

Thinky pain.

Thinky pain.

If you look at those numbers, you have to conclude that the fundamental truth of this election was a repudiation of the Governor.

To be sure, the strength of the competition has a lot to do with the numbers. But consider this one bare fact: roughly 33,000 Vermonters cast votes for Peter Welch and refused to do so for Peter Shumlin. To put it another way, tens of thousands of Vermonters cast straight-ticket Democratic votes except for Dean Corren and Peter Shumlin. 

And today, that’s not the kind of company you want to keep.

On top of all that, while this was a good election for Republicans in the legislature, it wasn’t a tsunami or anything. The Republicans did well; they are still on the short end of lopsided partisan divides. Governor Shumlin barely held on against an underfunded neophyte, but the Dems and Progs were victorious in roughly 60% of House races and nearly two-thirds in the Senate.

By far the biggest loser, aside from Dean Corren, was our (presumably) re-elected Governor. This race was partly a thumbs-down on Democrats in general; but far more than that, it was a rejection of Peter Shumlin’s governorship.

Money can’t buy me love

"I'm not dead yet!" said a soft, muffled voice.

“I’m not dead yet!” said a soft, muffled voice.

The race for Governor of Vermont had all the makings of “Bambi Vs. Godzilla II: The Re-Flattening.” Scott MIlne was a badly underfunded candidate who ran a goofy, error-filled campaign, while Peter Shumlin was the consummate political pro with a huge bankroll and a far stronger party apparatus.

And yet, here we are in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, and the race is technically too close to call. Shumlin’s almost certain to finish first, but with an embarrassingly small margin. This election is a crippling blow to his dream of single-payer health care, and to whatever his hopes were for the rest of his political career. No longer is he the guy who outsmarted a tough Democratic field and Brian Dubie in 2010, romped to re-election two years later, and built a fundraising operation the likes of which had never been seen in Vermont; he is now, and forever will be, the guy who spent nine hundred thousand bucks and almost lost to Scott Freakin’ Milne, who now looks like 2014’s answer to Fred Tuttle. Which would put Shumlin in the role of Jack McMullen, ugh.

The lessons of that Beatles lyric will also have to be learned at Democratic Party headquarters, where much money was spent and a lot of smart people were paid to run a campaign machine capable of overcoming all the obstacles in their path. Myself, I put a lot of stock in that operation, and I was wrong. The Dems have some serious soul-searching to do. How could they have such a strong grassroots organization, and yet be so out of touch with the grass roots?

In terms of issues, my diagnosis is that the Democrats (and the Progressives) misread the electorate, failing to address the issue of the year — property taxes. There was a fatal degree of hubris in the Shumlin Administration’s continually trotting out fresh issues, all of which were worthy of attention — but which diverted the government away from the lunchpail concerns of real folks.

You know, all those people who get to vote.

Property taxes were #1 on that list. And the Democratic majority was seen as unwilling or unable to tackle the issue.

Aside from property taxes, the second biggest problem (in my humble and sometimes dead wrong opinion) is the feeble economic recovery, featuring endless stagnation for the working and middle classes. This is not Governor Shumlin’s fault; it’s the way America’s economy is going. But he gets credit when times are good, and takes the blame when they’re not. Times are still tough for a lot of Vermont voters. I’m not sold that Vermonters favor the Republican prescription of cutting taxes and regulation, but they do have to see some tangible benefits from a Democratic administration.

Finally, if 2012 showcased Peter Shumlin’s good side — the solid helmsman who kept things running after Tropical Storm Irene and steered Vermont on his chosen course — then 2014 showed him at his worst: the all-too-polished politico who says whatever he thinks people want to hear, who can’t be trusted, who’s not nearly as good at day-to-day operation as he is at crisis management, and who is, frankly, seen as arrogant and unwilling to listen to those who disagree with him.

Scott Milne was, literally and figuratively, the anti-Shumlin. He got a lot of votes merely because he was Not Peter Shumlin. But beyond that, his extreme lack of polish — which seemed to be a fatal flaw — actually made him seem authentic, especially in contrast to Shumlin, the political animal. That’s why I compare him to Fred Tuttle.

But the avatar of out-of-touch liberalism was Dean Corren, the spectacularly failed Prog/Dem candidate for Lieutenant Governor. He qualified for public financing, which gave him enough money to run a competitive race. And he failed to come anywhere close to Cass Gekas’ late-starting, underfunded campaign in 2012. Corren had good ideas, but again, they were untethered to the everyday concerns of voters. It was the worst possible year for a rather prickly Progressive policy wonk with blue-sky ideas on energy and health care. And Phil Scott was his worst possible opponent.

I’m sure somebody will accuse me of lipsticking the pig here, but this could turn out to be a very good thing for the Democrats. It ought to kick the complacency out of them, and the hubris out of the governor’s office. They’ll have to take a serious look at how it all went wrong and try to fix it. If they do, they can reform and refocus themselves without the usual necessary step of actually losing power.

On the other hand, we could be in for a period of infighting, mutual recrimination, and descent into actual defeat in two years’ time. One thing’s for sure: a lot of potentially good Republican candidates sat this one out because they thought there was no chance.

They won’t make that mistake again.

Yep, I was wrong.

dunce-cap-599x320Yesterday’s elections turned out to be a lot more favorable for Vermont Republicans — or, to put it more accurately, unfavorable for Vermont Democrats — than I thought.

My fearless, not to mention feckless, predictions were:

— Governor Shumlin would easily clear the 50% barrier.

WRONG! As of early Wednesday morning, he still has a mathematical chance of losing to Scott Milne, and there’s no way he’ll get 50%.

— Dean Corren would come closer to unseating Lt. Gov. Phil Scott than Cass Gekas did two years ago, finishing in the mid-40s.

WRONG! Scott cruised, with better than 62% of the vote. Corren was depantsed AND wedgied, finishing with a mere 36%.

— Republicans would have to be satisfied with a bare minimum of legislative gains.

WRONG! They took two Senate seats and at least seven in the House. A couple of races are still hanging, and they might even reach Phil Scott’s seemingly rose-colored projection of double-digit gains.

I wasn’t completely shut out. The Republicans failed to mount serious challenges in the Washington and Orange County senate contests, and Dan Feliciano stumbled to a very poor finish. He couldn’t even gain automatic ballot status for the Libertarian Party.

But those are mere bagatelles. On the big races, I was as thoroughly depantsed as Dean Corren.

And now I learn from my mistakes, or try to. Explanations in my next post. But first, where’s that crow pie? I’ve got a hankering’ for some crow pie!