Submitted for your consideration, two politicians. One is widely seen as a failure; the other, a stunning success.
Now, two numbers: 110,970 and 87,075.
Finally, we raise the curtain.
The first politico is Randy Brock. He won 110,970 votes in his “disastrous” 2012 run for governor.
The second is Scott Milne. He garnered 87,075 votes in his 2014 near-victory.
Randy Brock the “failure” outpolled Scott Milne the “success” by nearly 24,000 votes.
Context is everything, of course. The 2014 contest was spectacularly unappealing. But when you look back over the last 20 years of Vermont voting, there’s a clear pattern: the electorate is much bigger in Presidential years than in off-years. (The other amazing note on Randy Brock is that his 2012 total was only a few thousand shy of Brian Dubie’s “impressive” share in 2010.)
Vermont’s average total vote in presidential years, 1996-2012: 300,000.
In non-presidential years, 1998-2014: 211,000.
And that’s one big piece of bad news for Phil Scott, who’d be running in an election featuring a strong Democratic presidential nominee against an extremely conservative Republican one. (More on this in an upcoming post.) Plus, Pat Leahy will be running for re-election. Next year’s electorate is likely to be large and liberal compared to 2014 or 2010.
Yes, Scott is personally popular. And yes, I rate him the early favorite. But it’s not nearly the slam-dunk you might think. In fact, chances are we’ll have a very close race for governor next year.
This on-year, off-year pattern isn’t hard to find. But it doesn’t get the discussion it merits. It’s a powerful force in our state’s politics, and it should be a huge advantage for the Democratic nominee. An “extra” 90,000 votes will be in play next year, and most of those are very likely to go Democratic.
That’s one big obstacle in the path of the Phil Scott Express. But it’s not the only one.
Watch this space.