Bruce Lisman, cruisin’ for a bruisin’

The weekly emission of “political analysis” from former Douglas Administration minion Michael Smith arrived, as usual, with my Saturday Times Argus. Most of it was the usual Republican-canted bushwah, but he led off with a paragraph that brought a smile to my lips:

Is Bruce Lisman considering a bid for governor? That’s what some are saying Lisman is telling them. In fact, one local businessman said Lisman told him he is definitely running.

Oh please. Oh please please PLEEEEEEEASE run for Governor. I’m beggin’ ya.

Because if he does, he’ll be setting himself up for his worst moment since that fateful time during the collapse of his former paymaster, Bear Stearns, back in March 2008:

In the middle of the afternoon, Bruce Lisman, the usually taciturn 61-year-old co-head of Bear Stearns’s stock division, climbed atop a desk near his fourth-floor office and demanded his traders’ attention. “Let’s stay focused,” he bellowed. “Keep working hard. Bear Stearns has been here a long time, and we’re staying here. If there’s any news, I’ll let you know, if and when I know it.”

His prediction soon proved inoperative, as Bear Stearns suffered an ignominious collapse in the financial meltdown that almost killed the global economy.

A gubernatorial bid won’t be nearly so cataclysmic — more of a whimper than a bang — but it’ll end just as badly for Our Man Bruce.

He seems to believe that Vermonters are begging for a hero with a vaguely centrist vision to come riding to the rescue.

Which might be true if we were talking Phil Scott, but not Bruce Lisman. He has money, to be sure. He has some connections. But he has no political base, his political instincts are lousy, and he’s a terrible speaker. His attempt to build a grassroots movement — Campaign for Vermont — has failed to catch on with the general public, and still depends on his largesse to stay afloat. There’s nothing in CFV’s history that shows a groundswell of support for Lisman or his agenda.

Bruce Lisman has precisely one eye-of-the-needle chance to become Governor. First, there’d have to be no Phil Scott in the race because he’d immediately commandeer the Lisman constituency, such as it is. Second, Lisman would have to give up his nominal nonpartisanship and run as a Republican. If he ran as an independent, he’d have to build an organization from scratch, put a whole lot of his money into the race, and survive a campaign in which he’d be taking fire from the two major parties. His utter lack of charisma, by itself, would all but doom the enterprise.

So let’s say he runs as a Republican and Phil Scott stays out. Lisman would then have to convince the right-leaning Republican primary electorate to abandon their party and a presumed candidate (Randy Brock?) who’d be more conservative than Lisman. In his favor, Lisman has done a whole lot of Democrat-bashing; but he’s also made it clear he believes in a Third Way. That’s a tough sell to the hard-core Republican base.

But still, it’s his most likely path to the nomination. If he managed that feat, he’d face a strong Democratic candidate (the top contenders are all good, experienced politicians) in a Presidential election year with Hillary Clinton, Pat Leahy, and Peter Welch atop the ticket. That spells big Democratic turnout. He wouldn’t be able to count on much help from a VTGOP that’s still underfunded, underorganized, and not very cohesive.

A Lisman candidacy will send a frisson up the spines of the political class, but it has virtually no chance of success. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lisman went on dithering for a while before ultimately deciding not to run. It’s been his M.O. so far; why would it change?

3 thoughts on “Bruce Lisman, cruisin’ for a bruisin’

  1. Mark Trigo

    I think that you may have missed the bigger story here. An article about how being governor would take Phil Scott away from his construction company followed by an article about Lusman considering a run … It strongly suggests that Scott is NOT running for governor.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      It is interesting that the Phil Scott conflict issue is arising now. He’s effectively had the same conflict throughout his time in the Senate and the Lite-Governorship. The conflict would be more acute if he were to become Governor, but nobody’s ever raised it before.


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