For the third weekend in a row, Vermont’s top Democrats are touring the state, rallying their voters and presenting a unified front behind Sue Minter. Pat Leahy, Peter Welch, David Zuckerman, TJ Donovan, Doug Hoffer, Beth Pearce, and Jim Condos have done more than their share to help carry Minter across the finish line.
And most crucially, Bernie Sanders, who not only spent two weekends on the stump with Minter*, he gave her a tremendous infusion of campaign cash thanks to his millions of supporters across the country. It really has been a great display of unity — far beyond anything I’d hoped for when I advocated a one-weekend Bus Tour. It’s also an impressive show of the Democrats’ political star power, the depth of their talent and the breadth of their appeal.
*This weekend, he’s campaigning for Hillary Clinton in other states.
Meanwhile, on the other side, we’ve got Phil Scott. And, um…
Bravely soldiering on, pretty much carrying the entire VTGOP on his broad, manly shoulders. Or trying to.
Really, who else is there? What other Vermont Republican might hope to draw a crowd or inspire the voters?
Imagine the Republican Bus Tour. Phil Scott, Randy Brock, Deb Bucknam, Dan Feliciano, Scott Milne?
Jim Douglas, dragged out of retirement? Nah, can’t be bothered.
And then there’s the ground game. The Democrats have a robust network of paid staff and volunteers. The party’s voter list is an invaluable resource, ensuring that phone banks and GOTV efforts are finely targeted.
(Their healthy House majority is an underappreciated aspect of this: the average State Representatives has a few thousand constituents. That’s small-scale enough to ensure that State Reps are plugged into their districts. They form strong links between leadership and the grass roots.)
The Republicans have a relative handful of paid staff and a rudimentary voter database. That makes it harder to effectively muster and target volunteers.
If Phil Scott had any illusions that this would be a coronation of the Prince In Waiting, they have been shattered by recent polls showing a tight race. Things have presumably gotten tighter since then, with a unified Democratic onslaught on the hustings, in the latest fundraising reports, and in its dominant turnout operation.
And such a financial onslaught, fueled to a large extent by Bernie Sanders’ fundraising appeal on Minter’s behalf. Minter more than doubled Scott’s fundraising in the last three weeks. That’s allowed her to match Scott spot-for-spot on the TV airwaves*, despite Scott’s apparent strategy of keeping his powder dry for a big closing push.
*On two different occasions yesterday, I saw a Scott TV ad followed immediately by a pro-Minter spot.
That strategy was aided — with no coordination, cough, no sirree — by the Republican Governors Association’s ad blitz that started just after the August primary and kept up a steady drumbeat for most of the campaign.
As it turned out, Scott’s only financial advantage was in outside money. Scott’s own fundraising performance was… well, it was okay I guess, but not great.
Scott has raised $1.53 million to date.
In 2010, the last time the governorship was open, Brian Dubie raised $1.85 million. Allowing for inflation, that’s $2.05 million in today’s dollars.
In fundraising terms, Phil Scott underperformed Brian Dubie by about 30 percent. Considering Scott’s broad popularity and his status as the party’s Great White Hope, that’s kind of stunning.
As it is, he might just drag himself across the finish line. But even if he does, he’ll be all by his lonesome. No other statewide Republican will come close to winning. The GOP’s Senate caucus will probably lose one or two of its nine seats. The House caucus will, at most, pick up a handful — and might even lose ground.
If he wins, the VTGOP will be poised for a long, painful, and uncertain rebuilding process. If he loses, the Party will continue its long meander through the political wilderness, bereft of its putative Moses.
I’m not saying the Republicans will never return to power. The Democrats nearly blew it in 2014 thanks to the perpetually troubled Vermont Health Connect website. They’re not immune to the effects of policy gone wrong or the hubris that usually infects an unchallenged ruling party.
Meanwhile, the Democrats may well hold onto the governor’s office despite the fact that their three-term incumbent (Ol’ What’s His Name) remains unpopular and their gubernatorial candidate is a member of his cabinet.
If this campaign has highlighted anything, it’s just how dominant the Democrats remain. And, even if they win the governorship, just how much work (and luck) it will take for the Republicans to rebuild.