Ever since Brian Dubie lost his race for governor in 2010, the Vermont Republican Party has lagged badly in political finance. With the exception of Phil Scott’s budget-friendly runs for lieutenant governor, Republican candidates for top offices (when they exist at all) have been at a tremendous disadvantage financially.
Well, 2016 is a new cycle and the Republicans have their Great White Hope running for governor, but one thing remains the same: the Democrats still have the money.
Just look at the campaign finance filings for governor. Setting aside Bruce Lisman’s generosity to himself, the two Republican candidates lag far behind their Democratic counterparts. Yes, even Phil Scott.
Matt Dunne and Sue Minter have combined to raise an astounding $1,055,026.
Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman (minus the latter’s donations to himself): $593,188.
I realize that Lisman’s own cash will buy just as many consultants and pre-processed Tweets as contributed funds. The point is, Vermont Republicans cannot match the Democrats in fundraising prowess. Not even Phil Scott.
The two Democrats have an even larger edge in remaining cash on hand, thanks to their relatively low spending rates. Dunne and Minter together have more than $758,000 in the bank, compared to Scott and Lisman’s $341,000. (And that figure includes Lisman’s own money.) That’s a better than two-to-one advantage.
Now, Lisman can dip into his big fat Wall Street wallet as much as he wants. And I presume Scott will have no problem raising more money. But it’s pretty darn amazing that Dunne and Minter can raise such spectacular amounts of money. And I think it’s safe to say that Dunne and Minter can maintain their stellar fundraising performance. If Phil Scott is to win the governorship, he’ll have a fight on his hands — no matter who wins the Democratic primary.
And then, of course, the state Democratic Party continues to bankroll a relatively robust party operation — especially compared to the VTGOP’s bare-bones effort.
If you want an object lesson in the value of a strong party structure, recall that the Democrats have a deep and accurate reservoir of voter information, built up and refined over the course of several years. The party’s voter lists are an invaluable resource for candidates up and down the ticket.
The VTGOP, by contrast, recently sent out an email blast seeking volunteers for a canvassing effort on Saturday, March 5. The message touted “a new walk app and data collection software” that would be tested in Colchester neighborhoods. (I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the canvass took place in VTGOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley’s own community.)
Well, hooray. Looks like the party is finally making an effort to enter the 21st Century. Of course, even if the software actually worked, a one-day volunteer canvass in one town is nothing more than a baby step in the thousand-mile journey the VTGOP needs to conquer. And it’s far too late to give them any help for 2016.
So yeah, the Republicans have a popular candidate for governor who can raise a decent amount of money. But otherwise? The party heads into the campaign season in its usual depleted state. Meanwhile, the Democrats still have the money. That’s a very good sign for their prospects in November.