You could excuse Phil Scott for feeling down in the dumps these days. There was the ice-bath shock of the VPR Poll, showing a dead heat in the race for governor. Then came a huge weekend of high-energy unity rallies for the Democratic ticket featuring Bernie Sanders, Pat Leahy, and Peter Welch thumping the tub for Sue Minter ad company, plus President Obama cutting a radio spot for her.
And now comes an ABC News poll showing Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 12 percentage points.
The growing gap is bad enough, but the worse news for Scott is deeper in the poll results.
The previous ABC/Post poll found a sharp 12-point decline in enthusiasm for Trump among his supporters, almost exclusively among those who’d preferred a different GOP nominee. Intended participation now has followed: The share of registered Republicans who are likely to vote is down 7 points since mid-October.
That’s a tangible sign that Trump is becoming a dead weight on down-ballot Republicans. And more evidence that Phil Scott has his work cut out for him, in what was once thought to be a cakewalk for the VTGOP’s King-in-Waiting.
Coincidentally, Scott did an extensive interview on the very day the VPR Poll was released. He spoke last Wednesday with Chris Lenois, host of Green Mountain Mornings on WKVT Radio in Brattleboro, and he didn’t look very happy when the poll came up.
Chris noted the poll’s finding of a tight race for governor, while all other statewide Republicans are trailing badly. Given that, Chris said, “I wonder how much change Vermont is ready for, and what your response is.”
Scott deflected immediately and fumbled around a bit, before tacitly acknowledging that the Republican ticket is kind of a lost cause. I’ll provide his entire (two-minute-long) response below, but here’s the salient excerpt.
I’m the only Republican statewide officeholder left. We have a legislature that’s dominated by one party, the House, the Senate, the administration all by one party. I think there needs to be a bit of a safety check here. I think there needs to be just a little bit of pushback…
The body language wasn’t any better. This is a guy who knows that, at best, he’ll be a lone survivor. His closing argument to the voters seems to be, “If you’re going to elect all those Democrats, you could at least elect one Republican.”
Asking for affirmative action, IOKIYAR.
And then there’s his Twitter feed, which is openly endorsing ticket-splitting. I wonder how Deb Bucknam feels about this photo.
— Phil Scott (@PhilScott4VT) October 24, 2016
“Sorry, Deb, the wolves are gaining on our sled, and there’s only one way to slow ‘em down.”
So, the vultures are gathering over the pre-rotting carcass of Republican hopes and dreams. They are now reduced to hoping that Phil Scott wins the governorship so he can serve as a speed bump to Democratic policymaking.
But what if he loses?
Suddenly, that’s a real possibility. I’ll address the prospect in an upcoming post.
And now, Phil Scott’s entire response to Chris Lenois’ question about the VPR Poll results. (You can watch the interview here; this passage comes around the ten-minute mark.)
I think it’s all about the economy, and I’ve worked my entire political life trying to advocate for that and listening to others. So what I believe is that I’m the only Republican statewide officeholder left. We have a legislature that’s dominated by one party, the House, the Senate, the administration all by one party. I think there needs to be a bit of a safety check here. I think there needs to be just a little bit of pushback, so that — and I would be saying this, by the way, if it was all dominated by Republicans, because I don’t think that’s healthy either.
I think we need a wealth of ideas, different backgrounds, and [Pause] What I like about the Legislature, it’s the citizens’ legislature, is that if we can open it up and make sure that we’re inviting enough so all walks of life can participate. That’s when you get real balance. That’s when you get the real ideas out there. And that’s where you get the most help for Vermonters, when you open up the process, transparent, make sure that every voice is heard, and then come to compromise.
I’ve reached across the aisle my entire life. And I think I’ve gained the respect of many in doing so. I presided over the Senate in a fair and equitable manner. There are issues that I might like to see forwarded or I might have to make a ruling on that is against the way I even feel. But I believe in the process, I believe in being judicious, I believe that you be fair and treat everyone fair, and I expect the same in return.