The Man Alone, Scott Milne, briefly emerged from his hidey-hole a few days ago to tell the Associated Press’ Dave Gram that his chances of being elected governor “are getting better on a weekly basis, if not a daily basis.”
Curious thing to say, with less than a week until the vote. Speaking calendrically, there ain’t no more “weekly” left. But if you think that’s a bit confusing, wait till you read what he told VTDigger’s Anne Galloway:
Milne said on Sunday his “chances are improving.” When asked how many lawmakers support his candidacy, he said his statement was “non-mathematical.”
“I’m not counting votes, and if I was, I don’t think I’d have close to 91,” Milne said. He said he could get 25 or 100 votes, but “more likely I’m going to lose, I don’t really know.”
I make that a quintuple spinaroonie: up, down, down, up, down. Whatever happens, he’ll be both disappointed and vindicated, I guess.
Anyway, if he thinks he’s gaining ground, he’s wrong. The Legislature’s vote will not be close. Gov. Shumlin will win, with perhaps a handful of Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Milne.
At this point, the cynical among you might be saying, “Hey, didn’t you predict an easy win for Shumlin in November?”
Yup, me and every other pundit and politico in Vermont. But I feel confident enough to tiptoe out on a limb once again. The Legislative vote is a whole different animal than the general election.
In November, a whole lot of liberals and card-carrying Democrats voted for someone other than Shumlin or simply left their ballots blank. There’s substantial evidence that the Democratic vote was far smaller in the gubernatorial race than elsewhere. It was easy to cast a protest vote when “everybody knew” that Shumlin would win. I certainly believed that Shumlin didn’t really need my vote. After the results came in, a liberal friend who voted for Milne swore never to cast a protest vote again.
The ironic but unmistakable conclusion: if people had thought the race was close, Shumlin would have done better. To put it another way, if voters had thought they might actually elect Scott Milne, he wouldn’t have done so well.
In the legislative vote for governor, there’s no kidding around. When you’re one out of 200,000, you can tell yourself your vote doesn’t count that much. When you’re one of 180, you really can’t. Each lawmaker is going to take the vote seriously.
And while leadership insists they aren’t twisting any arms, party discipline does — rightly — play a role. Parties are based on some sense of shared purpose and loyalty, which is why I’ve been so harsh on John Campbell and Dick Mazza for their open support of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.
When push comes to shove, and all the cards are on the table, how many Democrats are really going to vote for the other guy? Even if the ballot is secret, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out who voted which way. I expect Milne to get a modest number of Democratic votes, but no more than that.
Besides party loyalty, there’s also Vermonters’ tendency to stick with the familiar. Shumlin may have lost a lot of voters, he may have cost some lawmakers their seats, he may have turned his back on his signature policy proposal, but he’s still “Our Guy.” If the Senate Democratic Caucus gave near-unanimous support to Our Guys John Campbell and Dick Mazza, how many would abandon Peter Shumlin, who’s another one of Our Guys?
There’s also this: Just about everybody in the Statehouse knows that Scott Milne would be a disaster as governor. Well, at best he’d be a two-year placeholder. At worst, Legislative leadership would work around him. But nobody except Scott Milne wants Scott Milne to be governor.
Including all the Republicans who’ll vote for him on Thursday. I’ve written this before and it continues to be true: do you ever see Milne and the top Republicans together? Do you see any mention of “Governor Milne” when Republicans talk about their plans?
Is Milne involved at all in Phil Scott’s little “pitch session” with business leaders on Wednesday?
Nope, nope, and nope.
If the Republicans believed that Milne had the remotest chance of winning, they’d have him out front at every VTGOP event. But they don’t, in spite of their utterances to the contrary, so he remains The Invisible Man.
And on Thursday, he will formally become the losing candidate for governor. As he should be.
(And if I’m wrong, I will cheerfully fess up.)