Just call me Nellie

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

I guess the Republican State Committee held a meeting today. Sorry, couldn’t make it; had to get the chores done before the Women’s World Cup came on.

VTGOP Chair David Sunderland delivered a pep talk (of sorts) to the assembled dozens, in which he bravely talked up the party’s rebuilding effort. The text has been posted on the party’s website; highlights and annotations follow.

Despite the misleading proclamations of Democrats and other negative nellies, our fundraising is very strong. IN FACT, we have substantially more cash on hand this year than we have had at this time in any year since 2008. Isn’t that great news?!

I don’t know how you verbally express “?!”, but I’ll gladly accept my Negative Nellie Membership Card, since I recently posted a far-from-glowing review of the VTGOP’s recent financial reports. And yes, Sunderland is right, they’ve got more money flowing than “in any year since 2008,” but that’s not saying much. Indeed, it’s almost certain that the VTGOP’s finances were at an all-time low during the first four years of the Shumlin administration.

Remember the dark days of 2012, when the VTGOP accepted monthly handouts from the Romney campaign just to keep the lights on? Remember that the party went for several years without a single paid staffer? Now, they have a payroll of one (Jeff Bartley). A top Dem I talked with recently couldn’t imagine trying to run a major party with only one paid staffer.

As of May 31, the VTGOP’s federal committee* had $24,347.30 in cash on hand. During the month of May, the party spent roughly $11,000. So they have enough cash to pay the bills for a couple months.

*These days, virtually all of a state Democratic or Republican party’s activities are classed as “federal” under federal election law, so the federal reports give you the best picture of a party’s finances.

That’s sad. Yes, it’s better than it used to be. But that fact, in and of itself, adds another dimension of sad.

Our recruiting is progressing well and the state party, our legislative leaders and Lt. Governor Phil Scott are completely aligned in our efforts. We are working out of the same playbook, targeting the same districts and working alongside the same incumbents that we know may need some additional help to be successful in the presidential election year of 2016. I’m delighted to be here today to tell you that the days of duplicated efforts, gaps in outreach and contradictory strategies are over. Isn’t that more great news?!

Good of him to acknowledge that in 2016, the VTGOP will be forced to play defense. Is he setting the expectations bar at limbo level? Will he consider 2016 a success if Republicans manage to hold their ground in the legislature? Again, sad.

As for “completely aligned” and no more “contradictory strategies,” well, I’ll believe it when I see it. Not too long ago, conservative activist Darcie Johnston supposedly convened a “grassroots” meeting to which VTGOP leaders were not invited. There is a substantial contingent of the Republican Party (including, perhaps, the one-third of its legislators who belong to the very conservative American Legislative Exchange Council) that wants the party to play the Goldwater Long Game instead of shifting toward the center.

Perhaps the biggest test of Sunderland’s assertion will be whether there’s a gubernatorial primary next year. Assuming Phil Scott runs for Governor, will the party be “completely aligned”? Randy Brock is actively considering a run; ex-Libertarian Dan Feliciano is almost certain to throw his beanie in the ring. A Republican primary could expose the fault lines in the VTGOP.

Our support for legislators — and candidates considering a run — continues to grow beyond the confines of the past. We have issued in excess of 80 statements and press releases over the past 18-months…

Hmm. Let’s whip out the ol’ calculator here… 80 statements in 18 months… that’s a little more than four statements a month. Almost exactly one per week.

You know, that’s really not impressive. Not at all. Especially considering that many of those statements were nothing more than cut-and-paste carping about monthly unemployment and revenue figures. (The ones headlined with references to “the Shumlin/Shap Smith economy.”)

So what has the last year shown us? It has show, again, like Jim Douglas and Brian Dubie and many others who have come before us that when we promote a message consistently and constantly with language that is positive, fair and factual — and when we deliberately reject a tone that is hyper partisan, foul and flagrant — we move the party and its candidates forward.

Wow, that second sentence would get you a failing grade in high school English.

Otherwise, it’s a thinly-veiled message to the conservative wing to STFU. And it’s pretty ironic, considering that all those touted “statements and press releases” were loaded with partisan attacks on the Democrats, containing little of substance beyond Republican boilerplate about taxes and spending.

In the past 6-months we have re-activated hundreds of lapsed donors, added hundreds more to our valuable email list, and dramatically increased our Twitter followers and Facebook likes. That’s more good news, right?!

Oh yay. Twitter followers and Facebook likes. See, we’re a 21st Century party! And as with the money, it’s easy to “dramatically increase” if you start from a small base.

Considering the VTGOP’s paltry finances, I don’t know what they mean by “re-activated hundreds of lapsed donors.” During the month of May, the party received a little over $3,000 in donations. That’s chicken feed.

(Speaking of the May report, National Committeewoman Susie Hudson took home another $1,250 for “fundraising consulting.” That’s about 40% of the party’s total fundraising for the month. Her total “consulting” take since December 1: $7,000. I’d really like to know how she’s earning her keep.)

Okay, one more excerpt from Sunderland’s pep talk.

We must — for the strength or our Party and for the future of our state — stay focused, stay the course and stay away from special interests and individuals with their own agendas.

(Cough)DarcieJohnston(Cough).

As for “special interests,” that’s rich. With their fundraising engine still in the ditch and the coffers one bad month away from empty, their hopes rest on a big influx of out-of-state “special interest” money to support their candidates outside of party channels. Just like 2014, when the Republican State Leadership Committee dumped $300,000 into key legislative races in the closing weeks of the campaign.

I don’t begrudge Sunderland his overheated speech, interrobangs and all. It’s his job to energize and unify the party. And it’s my job to take a closer look at his talking points.

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