Daily Archives: June 8, 2015

Trial Balloon Of The Day — UPDATED

Warning: This is pure speculation. It’s not even a rumor. No substance whatsoever. But it’s irresistible. And somewhat believable.

Update: It’s not pure speculation anymore; a prominent backstage figure in Vermont politics has openly put it out there. See below.

So I was talking with an administration functionary about, y’know, this and that, and talk inevitably turned to who might run for governor next year. And a name came up that I hadn’t even thought of, but that makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Peter Welch.

The longtime Congressman would immediately sweep aside the rest of the field. Even Phil Scott wouldn’t dare. No Democrat would challenge him; they’d all immediately stampede to the congressional race.

But why would Welch do this? He can stay in Congress as long as he wants to.

Well, let’s make the case. Entirely my speculation here, but follow along, just for the heck of it.

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Okay, so that happened.

Surprise, surprise: Peter Shumlin won’t run for re-election next year.

Many more thoughts to come, but here’s the instant reaction.

It’s the right move, but I wasn’t sure he was capable of making it. He would have had a very, very tough time winning back the voters next year. If he’d managed to right the ship on Vermont Health Connect, and if this year’s legislation had begun to make a difference, he would have had a shot at winning a fourth term. Even so, it’d be an uphill battle.

I say “I wasn’t sure he was capable of making it” because it’s awfully hard for a politician to leave the game, and it’s hard for a politician as accomplished as Shumlin to leave with the Scott Milne embarrassment as his last electoral act. In stepping aside, Peter Shumlin shows a wisdom and perspective that many didn’t think he had.

His image was worse than the actual person. This decision shows that there’s an authentic Peter Shumlin that doesn’t measure life by political wins and losses. He has no interest in a political future; he plans to leave his East Montpelier manse and return to Putney. I expect he will do that. And though he’ll certainly continue to have a public life, I think he’ll be true to his word: no more campaigns, no more full-time public service.

— He’s waved the white flag on single payer health care. In his speech, he mentioned health care reform as the one area of failure for his administration. If he thought he could resurrect single payer between now and 2018, he might well have run for re-election.

— This gives the Democratic Party a clean slate. Without Shumlin on the ticket, it could be a very good year for the Democrats; it’s a Presidential year with either Hillary Clinton or (haha) Bernie Sanders atop the ballot, and Pat Leahy presumably running for re-election. We should have a substantial and very Democratic turnout. Sad to say, but Shumlin would have been a net negative.

— This is bad news for the VTGOP. They won’t face a wounded incumbent with a long track record and personal unpopularity; they’ll face a candidate with substantial experience (see below) and with a full 18 months to fundraise and put together a top-notch campaign. And even if there’s a spirited Democratic primary, 2010 has shown that that isn’t a bad thing.

— The Republicans really blew it in 2014. If they’d run a real candidate, they would have won the corner office. If Phil Scott has any real ambitions to be Governor, he’s gotta be kicking himself right now.

— The Democrats have an incredibly deep talent pool. I could name you half a dozen eminently qualified candidates without any trouble. There’s been a logjam at the top for quite a while, what with our extremely senior Congressional delegation and our very capable statewide officeholders (well, Pearce, Hoffer, and Condos anyway — three out of four ain’t bad) and our sclerotic state senate. By contrast, of course, the Republicans’ talent pool is more of a puddle, aside from Phil Scott.

Early favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination? House Speaker Shap Smith. If he can get the Democratic caucus behind him, he’d have a big advantage at the grassroots level and he’d be very, very tough to beat. And he did a great job during this year’s legislative session of threading a very narrow needle, being an honest broker, and subtly creating a political persona of his own.

More thoughts to come, I’m sure. I welcome your comments below.

Signs of trouble at the VTGOP

This ought to be a pretty good time for Vermont Republicans, comparatively speaking. They won some notable victories in 2014. The 2015 legislative season began with the Governor abandoning his signature issue, and the legislature facing a big budget deficit and a bunch of tough issues.

The Democratic majority did a pretty good job all told, but they certainly left plenty of room for Republican attacks. The tax increases, the education reform plan, the unresolved problems with Vermont Health Connect, the apparent disconnect between Governor and legislature. Lots of red meat.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

But there are signs that the Vermont Republican Party is still in the doldrums: low on funds, poor on party-building and grassroots organizing, surprisingly passive during a season of opportunity, and suffering from a seemingly intractable rift between the True Believers and the Inclusivists.

Some of this is nothing but rumor. But rumor with a consistent, believable storyline that’s reflected in the cold, hard facts of the VTGOP’s financial reports.

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