You can probably guess. It’s Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
Not just because he cruised to an easy victory over Dean Corren. Not just because he leaves the campaign with almost $100K in cash on hand for whatever he wants to do next.
Not just because the decks are clear for him to be a very dangerous candidate for Governor in 2016.
No, on top of all that, there’s this: the results of the election ought to cement his control of the Vermont Republican Party. The true believers ought to be marginalized by the impressive success of Scott Milne as a moderate Republican candidate and the dismal failure of their pet project, Dan Feliciano.
Hey, remember when two of the VTGOP’s top four officers, Brady Toensing and Mark Snelling, openly supported Feliciano in the Republican primary?
Brady Toensing and Mark Snelling were the two holdovers from the Jack Lindley era who retained their offices last fall in a patched-together compromise with the Phil Scott people.* At the very least, their views ought to take a back seat. At the very most, Scott and party chair “Super Dave” Sunderland ought to feel free to replace them with more like-minded people.
*Correction: I mischaracterized the VTGOP’s leadership race last fall. Toensing was not a holdover from the previous admin; originally, according to Paul Heintz, the conservatives wanted Toensing as chair and David Sunderland as vice chair, while the Phil Scott camp wanted them switched. In the end, the party unanimously went with Scott’s pairing.
And, lest we forget, prominent conservatives Wendy Wilton and John McClaughry also jumped into the Feliciano lifeboat, only to see the S.S. Milne sail on blissfully without them.
And if there’s any justice, this ought to be the death knell for Darcie “Hack” Johnston as a serious political voice. She piloted Feliciano’s campaign straight into the Randy Brock Memorial Iceberg. As far as I can tell, she represents nobody but herself. Her true-believer approach to politics is a proven loser, a dead end for the VTGOP. She might keep on being quoted in the media because she’s an easy get, but as a political strategist? Nope.
For all his faults as a campaigner, Scott Milne succeeded where nobody has since Jim Douglas: he convinced a lot of centrists, independents, and even Democrats to abandon their standard bearer. Part of that is circumstance; a lot of it is a loss of faith in Governor Shumlin; but it also had to do with a Republican candidate who was not an ideologue, who even entertained the notion that some Democratic ideas might be acceptable.
Future Republican candidates would do well to learn the art of public speaking better than Milne, but they would also do well to follow the moderate Republican playbook.
And that’s the biggest win of all for Our Lieutenant Governor.