Cautionary notes on the Phil Scott inevitability, part 3: Deadweight party

See also: Part 1, addressing the massive turnout difference between presidential and non-presidential years; and part 2, on the unhelpfully archconservative nature of the Republican presidential field.

Strangely, there was no media presence at last Saturday’s meeting of the Vermont Republican Party.

I say “strangely” because the VTGOP’s four officers were up for re-election. And they haven’t been all that successful; the party continues to trail the Democrats in finances, staffing, and organization, both statewide and grassroots.

I couldn’t be there because I was out of town all weekend, but I have heard some news.

To begin with, in a sign that Executive Director Jeff Bartley doesn’t have his finger on the pulse, he scheduled the meeting for the opening weekend of hunting season. That’d seem to be a no-no for The Party Of Traditional Vermont (And Guns), if not for a young urbanite like Jeff. From what I hear, they barely mustered a quorum.

On the topline, there was no drama. All four officers were re-elected. Maybe the conservatives were out baggin’ deer, or maybe they just don’t have much to offer. (Two years ago, their choice for party chair was John MacGovern, who’s best known in these parts for being an ultraconservative joke candidate against Bernie Sanders in 2012. If he was the conservative wing’s best option, then ugh.)

Here’s something you’ll be surprised to hear. Both gubernatorial candidates addressed the “crowd,” and from the whispers reaching these ears, Phil Scott was underwhelming. How underwhelming? Well, Bruce Lisman looked good by comparison. Apparently, Scott rolled out his usual bumpf, while Lisman actually offered some red meat to the faithful.

In the long run, that’s probably meaningless. Scott remains the overwhelming favorite for the nomination, but there might just be a few chinks in the favorite’s armor.

And since the #1 argument for his candidacy is inevitability, and he remains unpopular with many stalwarts for his studied moderation and his past inactivity in supporting other GOP candidates, any small weakness could quickly compound.

I’ve taken a detour on the way to the point of this post, which is: The VTGOP enters 2016 in a depleted state. Its monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission continue to be studies in statistical despair. VTGOP chair David Sunderland told Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck that there’s about $25,000 in the party coffers, which is awful considering (a) it began the off-year with almost twice that much, and (b) it’s recently hosted two fundraisers headlined by presidential candidates.

More bad news, per Hallenbeck: so far, there are no Republican candidates for Congress, treasurer, auditor, attorney general, or secretary of state. It’s unlikely that all these slots will remain unfilled; but it seems certain that high-profile Republicans will stay safely on the sidelines. Which means Phil Scott will be heading a ticket featuring either blank slots or the Mark Donkas of the world. No help there.

Also, despite alleged party-building activity, Republicans are still at a distinct disadvantage in the grassroots. Hallenbeck:

While the party is stepping up its recruitment efforts, Republicans still trail Democrats. Republicans say they have organized committees in 134 Vermont towns, while Democrats have done the same in 185.

Bear in mind that these are the Republicans’ own numbers, and are probably on the sunny side of reality.

Put it all together, and the Democratic nominee begins the campaign with a huge advantage over the Republican in organizational support and strength of ticket. Phil Scott won’t get any help from his party. I still think he’s the early favorite, but there are quite a few spiders in that attic.

6 thoughts on “Cautionary notes on the Phil Scott inevitability, part 3: Deadweight party

  1. newzjunqie

    Difficult to believe VT Rs are still such a sorry lot. Lindley — now this bunch? But really this is just the VT way! Day-late dollar-short never really measuring up however it’s across the board and lives here like an incurable disease that forever plauges our state.

    Each new what-have-you just holds the bar at the same low level they found it. Nearly everyone I know either doesn’t know or doesn’t care, apathetic as it’s just always been this way. And our media is no better — it’s in their interest to keep us barefoot and stupid all, none-the-wiser everyday. If someone of average intelligence can see this — very depressing. From eyebrow-raised to headshake, nonplussed to facepalm disgusted with those who obviously could not care less about doing the business of the ppl however Shummy has set new records and will go down as onre of if not worst governor. Anyone connected to his legacy of failure and fraud will have a hard roe to hoe. Not so sure the “huge advantage” applicable this time.

    In spite of it there seem to be enough ppl who vote scattered around the state who get something as Milne nearly won top job by accident almost stumbling into and awakening in fifth foor office as governor.

    Soo in spite of the reality of serious number-crunching and zany antics of the characters of this running comic-strip many of these folks have come to be – leave me for one mystified how they can do anything right – I have hope that we will not be left to the tender mercy of the top-down bureaucratic wolves any longer. Unless Lisman manages to pull the wool over.

  2. Walter Carpenter

    “Shummy has set new records and will go down as one of if not worst governor.” Oh, I don’t know about that. I wonder what other governor could have handled two gigantic climatic disasters in one summer in their first term — the floods of Champlain, and Hurricane Irene. As far as VHC (which I am no fan of) he did blow it, but I also doubt that any other Guv could have done much better with it, considering the crazy complexity of the law (welfare for health insurance companies) in the first place.

    1. newzjunqie

      Hadn’t read this entirely nor were some comments included plus it has new information I think or I missed something. Surprise! Seems VHC not fixed and still spitting out cancellations. Fixed means fixed. ‘Partially’ fixed is not fixed b/c it means there are things that are not fixed.

      What will it take? All Vermonters parked in and around Montpelier appearing in front of fifth floor torches & pitchforks in hand??? Oh snap — only to hear announcement Shummy’s on tropic island again for another sunny getaway!

  3. NanuqFC

    Well, there are other factors to consider, JV. Paid groupies for rich candidates (a la Richie Tarrant) might come into play next spring. Democratic disgust with Shumlin’s duplicity over healthcare might prompt some of them to stay home or skip the governor’s line on the ballot (as happened last year), even though his name won’t be there — with regard to empty promises, once burned, twice shy.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Your points are well taken. This series wasn’t meant as a comprehensive look at the campaign, just some notes on why Phil Scott isn’t as invulnerable as he might appear.


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