A tale of two troubled campaigns

Over the weekend, when I realized that much of the Vermont political media corps had decamped for Iowa, I jokingly Tweeted an alert to politicians: this would be an ideal time to dump some bad news, because it would likely be under-reported by our depleted media corps.

Well hey, turns out I was right. Because not one, but two Democratic candidates for statewide office took the opportunity to fire their campaign managers: gubernatorial hopeful Sue Minter, and Rep. Kesha Ram, running for lieutenant governor. (Technically, Minter reassigned her campaign chief, but that’s so transparent it fails the laugh test.) The news was broken by one of the only political scribes who didn’t decamp to Iowa, Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck.

I think we’ve just achieved a great deal of clarity on the likely Democratic ticket. I don’t know for a fact that the Minter and Ram machines are in the ditch, but I do know that this is something that only happens when a campaign is in deep trouble.  It’s like a baseball team going into a new season with a new manager — and then firing the poor bastard on Memorial Day. It doesn’t happen unless there are exigent reasons, such as a 12-30 record and dead last in the standings.

Both candidates tried to put a brave face on things. Minter anointed ex-campaign chief Sarah McCall with the face-saving title of “senior adviser,” but her duties sound more like “traveling secretary,” as Hallenbeck reported:

[New campaign manager Molly] Ritner will be the main media contact for the campaign, Minter said, while McCall will handle scheduling and other duties.

Possibly including dishwashing and light housecleaning.

The only potentially positive note about the Minter Shuffle is that Molly Ritner came recommended by Emily’s List, the high-powered PAC that supports female candidates. Its backing would provide Minter a nice fundraising boost. On the other hand, Ritner comes from out of state — and as Hallembeck pointed out, Vermont newbies have a lousy track record running campaigns here. Ritner faces a steep learning curve. Of course, she will be able to benefit from the wise counsel of the campaign’s new “senior adviser.”

As for Ram, she says that she and ex-campaign manager Brandon Batham “didn’t have a great dynamic.” Which sounds like the classic breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Meaning, “It’s you.”

But how bad does the dynamic have to be, that she feels the need to start afresh?

Another bad sign: Batham’s not being replaced. Ram will soldier on with a single paid staffer. Which sounds like a campaign that’s gasping for cash.

It’s still early, and both candidates have time to restart their machines and get back on the road. But right now, judging by appearances, you’d have to say Matt Dunne is the favorite for the gubernatorial nomination and Dave Zuckerman is out front in the race for lite-guv.

If true, it’s a shame and a missed opportunity for female candidates to bust through Vermont’s glass ceiling. This is a rare year of turnover at the top of the Democratic ticket, and if we elect another slate of male Dems — and/or male Republicans — then it might be several years before women get another chance.

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6 thoughts on “A tale of two troubled campaigns

  1. Bob Sherman

    I am a huge fan of baseball and thus baseball analogies so it is with some dismay that I point our how flawed the one you use in this post is. A baseball team long out of the race on September 1 is one month from the post season and planning for spring training.

    The Vermont primaries are in August. Political campaigns are still in the preseason. And yes political campaigns have a long preseason. The season begins in earnest when the legislature adjouns in May.

    Now is the time for fund raising, organizing and fine tuning campaign organizations. Newcomers to statewide campaigns rarely get it right the first time. The smart ones recognize this and make changes to improve their prospects.

    Reply
  2. newzjunqie

    Coming out strong for VT third rail-gun control-is gonna hurt, just ask Linda Waite-Simpson. But Braden claims Bloomberg astroturf, er ‘grassroots’ anti-gun group has no plans for hitting up statehouse this year, pesky election and all.
    http://vtdigger.org/2016/01/06/minter-praises-obamas-push-gun-restrictions/

    Ambitious ascent as Shummy protege, after stint in statehouse handed political career-in-a-box on platter courtesy of mentor Shummy. Strategically installed as heir apparent primarily to salvage disappointing legacy & continue failed programs mission-critical that it be continued & not tarred as epic fail of monumental proportion it is.

    Cannot distance from administration she was part of, with own failure, blind eye & deaf ear to AOT sex harrassment causing alleged victims to leave jobs, lawsuits pending. Cast in starring role for Irene, given resume-building committee assignments courtesy of Shummy, and way too much credit. Hey what about Lunderville? Shummy & Minter claim to the face of Irene recovery undeserved, was in fact a statewide massive concerted effort.

    Flanking self with coterie of VT apparatchiks, Racine with own failure, Kunin from bygone era, not universally loved, had failures also. Dragging out Hoff, reminder of reapportionment and resultant loss of representation. Don’t think most voters care about glass ceiling thing and other boomer issues, so last century.

    Connecting to past not a good thing w/Dem brand taking huge hit, after 8+ years of majority rule, D/P now own the drastic results thereof. That unknown w/weak political skills, few connections and herky-jerky campaign, Scott Milne nearly won top job has gotta hurt. No wonder Shummy busily attempting to rewrite history & scrub legacy-lotsa luck gov.

    Minter has hard row to hoe. Sooner conversation starts with clear policies-more time other candidates have to remind of Ms. Minter connection to the failure of this administration, now w/seeming structural deficit and billions for tech projects, D/P pipedreams “needed” on the horizon.

    Personally expect secret-weapon Howard Dean will swoop on the trail to support campaign at opportune time by reminding us of the successful moderate manager, popular & affable gaffe-prone gov many of us miss. Buuut just as Hillary is no Bill Clinton-Sue Minter no Howard Dean.

    Scott says he’ll pull plug on unpopular still-problematic VHC & go to the federal exchange–soo what say Ms Minter. More endless crickets not an option.

    Reply
  3. Walter Carpenter

    “But Braden claims Bloomberg astroturf, er ‘grassroots’ anti-gun group has no plans for hitting up statehouse this year, pesky election and al”

    And the NRA does not do this either?

    Reply
  4. Brooke Paige

    John,

    Boy was the first part of this one hard to read ! I have found that it is best not to take too big of a swig (or too big a hit) of the “evil spirits” before hitting the keyboard ! Same applies if you are using Dragon (word processing translator) which gets lost if you get a little too ethereal !

    Anyway, it was a good read later on so we’ll give you a pass on having a “moment” early on.

    All the Best,
    Brooke

    Reply

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