Back on April 22, I wrote that I almost felt sorry for Christina Nolan, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Since then, she’s lived through the dreadful mayonnaise video, a failure to identify a single campaign staffer, a disastrous campaign finance report, and the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a terrible development for a candidate with a squishy-soft position on reproductive rights.
Well, now I really do feel sorry for her.
The UNH Survey Center poll of Vermont’s two Congressional races was laughably bad for Lt. Gov. Molly Gray. It was downright embarrassing for Nolan. The poll has her six points behind Generic Angry White Guy Gerald Malloy and 18 points behind “Undecided.”
More on this in a moment, but I wanted to add three thoughts to my earlier post on the Gray/Becca Balint poll.
First, this is not about Super PAC spending. Sure, three progressive PACs have spent a combined $600,000 on independent activities in support of Balint. But the bulk of that money was spent this month, and a 42 percentage point spread just doesn’t happen that quickly. Even people who run these campaigns would acknowledge that they’re working the margins, trying to move the needle by a few percentage points. The Super PAC support certainly makes Gray’s task harder but if she blames her predicament on them, she’ll be wrong.
Second, if a 42-point deficit wasn’t enough bad news for Gray, there’s also a favorability gap. Balint was seen favorably by 72% of respondents, and unfavorably by a mere 6%. Twelve percent had no opinion. The same categories for Gray: 42% favorable, 19% unfavorable, 8% no opinion. The gist: there’s only a small pool of gettable voters for Gray. Only 13% are undecided. If this poll is anywhere in the ballpark, Gray has a huge deficit and little room to make progress.
Third, Natalie Silver is a freakin’ genius. She’s run a seemingly flawless campaign for Balint. Maybe we should have seen this coming; TJ Donovan never looked better than when Silver was his chief of staff. (She was also involved in Gray’s surprising run to the Bucket of Warm Piss in 2020.) I suspect that if Balint goes to Congress, Silver will be in her inner circle because why the hell wouldn’t you want Silver at your side? But if Silver doesn’t go to Washington, she’ll be the hottest commodity in Vermont politics. And rightfully so.
Ahem. Back to Christina Nolan.
The Nolan/Malloy result is within the poll’s margin of error, which is 7% for the Republican side (5% for Dems). But still. Nolan is reasonably well-known from her four years as U.S. Attorney for Vermont. She’s an accomplished professional. She’s following the Phil Scott model for success: presenting herself as a plausibly moderate Republican.
And she hasn’t been able to create any distance between herself fand Malloy, who’s never run for office and whose platform is almost cartoonishly Trumpian. Really, this race shouldn’t be close.
But that’s the state of the Vermont Republican Party in the Year of Our Lord 2022. Its base is out of touch with its only winning politician, Gov. Phil Scott, and with the political climate of the state. A Malloy victory would be proof that the party has lost its way and may never get out of the wilderness.
Unfortunately, the poll didn’t include the primaries for lieutenant governor. That’s the other big test case for the extremist bent of the Republican electorate, pitting well-known and -respected Sen. Joe Benning against Gregory Thayer, organizer of a bus trip to Washington for the January 6, 2021 Trump rally and insurrection. Since then, Thayer has made a name for himself, or a disgrace of himself, by speaking out across the state against the imaginary scourges of critical race theory and Black Lives Matter. I’d like to know how Thayer is doing. If he can compete with Benning or even beat him, that’s another death knell for the relevance of the VTGOP.
I have yet to write about the three-way Republican Congressional primary because it’s irrelevant. Whoever wins will have no resources and can expect little help from the party. The Democrat is going to win in November.
And it looks like the Republican primary will be a three-way guessing game. A whopping 58% of Republican respondents have yet to make up their minds. And most of them don’t even know who’s running. Redic is unknown to 65% of respondents. Tynio is at 64%, which is pretty sad considering that she’s been the Republican nominee for this seat before. The third hat in the ring, Liam Madden, is at least known by a little over half of those surveyed.
The three candidates’ favorable ratings? Redic 10%, Tynio 5%, and Madden 2%. Yikes. I will not dignify this contest with the fig-leaf of consideration that’s customary in the political press.
It’s a rare year in Vermont, with two openings in our Congressional delegation. The VTGOP has mustered one single serious candidate for these two nominations, and that candidate may lose to a little-known extremist. Bleak times for the party that once ruled the roost for over a century. The sun, as Samuel Hand might say, has set.