Let’s get something out there up front. I suck at predictions. I’m not particularly plugged into The People or the political establishment of either party. I’m not a statistical expert; I can’t evaluate the polls for insights and/or flaws. I tend to let my heart get in the way. (Yes, I do have a heart. I’ve been tested.) In 2014, I confidently foresaw an easy re-election win for Peter Shumlin. Which is about the only real test for a would-be prognosticator in my roughly five years of being a Vermont Political Observer.
So stack up the disclaimers like firewood before I take a timorous tiptoe out on a short limb and say…
I think Sue Minter is our next governor.
It’ll be close. Might even need to be affirmed by the Legislature, should Bill Lee draw enough votes to keep her under 50 percent.
Up until three weeks ago, I thought Phil Scott would win. Since then, the momentum is all Minter’s.
Scott Milne is running a truly bizarre campaign, entirely based on attacking incumbent Sen. Patrick Leahy. Milne’s entire “platform” consists of (1) Pat Leahy’s been in Washington too long, and (2) he’s been a successful fundraiser. Like Rudy Giuliani and “9/11,” Milne can’t open his mouth without the number “42”, as in Leahy’s tenure in the Senate, tumbling out. Milne has made no effort to outline policy differences or present his own ideas.
This may not be the nastiest campaign in state history; God knows the 19th Century featured tactics that might make Donald Trump blush. But it’s certainly the nastiest campaign in living memory.
And it’s getting worse, and louder, and nastier.
Start with Milne’s weekend rejection of Trump. He couldn’t get through three paragraphs without a gratuitous slam at Leahy. In fact, the Leahy slam was the lede in Milne’s statement.
Then came the news that Vice President Biden will campaign in Vermont. Milne couldn’t stop himself:
“Sen. Leahy and Vice President Biden have spent the past 42 years together in Washington, and they both supported Hillary Clinton against Bernie, so it is not surprising that they would be campaigning together.”
A sensible candidate would have kept his mouth shut. Why call attention to a high-profile fundraiser benefiting your opponent? But Milne appears to suffer from a unique variant of Tourette’s, which compels him to whine about Pat Leahy with every breath he takes.
As Vermont Republicans desperately flee the sinking, and stinking, Good Ship Trump, it’s not at all surprising that the most ungainly lifeboat leap was executed by Senate nominee Scott MIlne. In ending his months of indecision on whether to endorse Trump, Milne tried to blame it all on — you guessed it — Pat Leahy.
“I was hoping to make it to a debate with Pat Leahy before talking specifically about the presidential contest, and the differences between Leahy and me regarding our treatment of candidates. But, Pat Leahy’s debate dodging, coupled with the embarrassing and completely inappropriate things that have been confirmed about Donald Trump, force me to speak,” said Milne.
… “I will not vote for Donald Trump, and I would respect his decision to step aside,” Milne concluded.
So he’d vote for extreme conservative anti-choice Mike Pence if given the opportunity?
I have no idea what he means by “the differences between Leahy and me regarding our treatment of candidates.” Would he bring up Bill Clinton’s scandals? Or maybe Chappaquiddick?
Whatever, the idea that Milne was holding off on a Trump decision turns out to be complete horseshit. Because we can pinpoint exactly when Milne made his decision. It was during a 20-minute period on Saturday afternoon.
The leader of the State House’s perpetually undersized Republican caucus is feeling his oats.
[House] Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, said he believes the Republican Party can increase its presence in the chamber from the current 53 seats to 76 — a majority.
I understand it’s part of his job to put on a brave face, but there is no way on God’s green Earth that the Republicans rack up a net gain of 23 House seats. After all, 2014 was a horrible year for Vermont Democrats; their ticket-topper was the roundly unpopular Peter Shumlin, there was no race for President or U.S. Senator, and turnout was dramatically depressed. And even with all that in their favor, the VTGOP only managed a net gain of eight seats in the House.
And 2016 should be a bounceback year for the House Democrats. (More on this below.)
There’s also the inconvenient fact that the House Republicans’ campaign warchest appears to be in the red. According to its most recent campaign finance filing, the Vermont House Republican PAC has raised $5,095 this campaign cycle and spent $7,832.74. That dip into penury was triggered by an Attorney General’s ruling that the PAC had improperly accepted contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session. It had to return $3,000 in donations and pay a $2,000 fine.
So, no help there. But it’s not like the VHRPAC is alone. Pretty much every Republican aside from Phil Scott is begging for spare change.
Even by his own unpredictable standards, Scott Milne made a stupefying comment in a broadcast interview on Thursday.
Appearing on WDEV Radio’s “Open Mike,” the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate said that if North Korea didn’t come to its senses, “they’re going to have to be taken out.”
In case you’re wondering about context, here’s the paragraph that ended with Milne calling for Korean War II. It began with Smith asking what we should do about North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear capability.
I, I think we need to, um, support a strong South Korea, we need to not provoke ‘em, but we need to be, if they continue down this nuclear path, we don’t want to be drawing lines in the sand in my opinion, we want to have quiet diplomatic dialogue with them, hopefully there’s a change in the regime there, but they’re gonna have to join the, um, the world as we know it now or they’re going to have to be taken out.
“…they’re going to have to be taken out.”
Talk about dangerous ignorance of global relationships.
Round of applause for the Burlington Free Press’ April Burbank, who filed an appropriately skeptical report on Scott Milne’s umpty-billionth attack on Sen. Pat Leahy’s integrity.
The subject of his latest sally was, once again, EB-5. In a press release and news conference, MIlne played his favorite hits and added a couple new verses while depicting Leahy as The Great And Powerful Wizard of EB-5.
Unfortunately for Milne’s desired narrative, Burbank began her story thusly:
Scott Milne said he’s “not ready” to discuss specific policies he would pursue if elected to the U.S. Senate, other than ethical questions he has raised about his opponent, Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Looking at my calendar, I see that we are almost at the halfway mark between the August 9 primary and the November 8 election. And I’m still waiting for the serious news coverage to begin.
So far, it’s been just short of pathetic. Reporters have chased around the obvious opportunities — press releases, press conferences, debates — but initiated very little on their own, and done virtually no fact-checking or analysis of candidates’ positions.
Maybe they’re just waiting. Or maybe the market-driven diminution of our media corps has reached the point where there simply isn’t any meat left on the bones.
2014 The gubernatorial campaign of Scott Milne had one distinguishing feature: Scott Milne did what Scott Milne wanted to do and said what he wanted to say. In an odd sort of way, it reminds me of one Donald J. Trump.
Appear grossly unprepared in public forums? Check.
Give long, meandering, stream-of-consciousness answers to questions? Check.
No attempt at all to hew to Republican orthodoxy? Check.
No attempt to open or maintain communication with the VTGOP? Check.
No effort to raise money or build a campaign infrastructure? Check.
His inner circle basically consisting of family members? Check.
Propensity to grind personal axes on the campaign trail? Check.
Donald Trump without the energy and Brut-drenched charisma, you might say. Better hair, tho.
He’s pursuing the same contrarian course in his present challenge to eternal incumbent Sen. Patrick Leahy.
A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.
I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.
*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.
After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.
But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.