Elections – Governor: (Note: this diary was put together prior to the report of Peter Shumlin’s high-profile traffic ticket. More on that soon.)
The final stretch before the now-August primary has begun. In the coming weeks, everything will change as the race gets more headlines and the candidates turn to mass media pitches.
Direct mail blitzes? Radio ads? Perhaps even television buys? It’s going to depend on what the candidates can afford, and soon we’ll have a sense of that as well. Up to this point, the candidates will have laid the field, organizational and thematic groundwork into which paid media can be driven – and the results will change the face of this contest rapidly. Who will go for broke? Who will be the most conservative in rationing their resources for the General Election? And who will the press support or inhibit?
The answers to those questions will likely determine whether this race settles into a 2-person affair, or a 3-person affair, likely leaving the remaining 2 or 3 in the position of spoiler for one or more of the leaders.
So how do things seem to look at present? (Note: A more complete analysis of the Dubie campaign will come in a later, stand-alone diary.)
Racine ascendant, but… If the campaign team for Doug Racine’s earliest (and likely strongest) rival (Markowitz) has any smarts (they do), they’ve likely been trying for months to convince those liberal interest groups that make endorsements to reject endorsements in the primary as needlessly divisive and contrary to their organizational interests. Why? Because of exactly what has played out in recent weeks, as all those endorsements keep going going to Racine. The only other way to have kept them out of Racine’s portfolio would have been to convince enough primary voters that Racine was too milquetoast to win, making him an unteneble choice to endorsement committees due to the bad buzz.
But it didn’t happen that way, and Racine’s recent hiring of Joe Trippi as a campaign advisor may well have been the death knell for that narrative among many Democrats.
One by one, the unions have delivered their endorsements and the material backing that entails to Racine, and yesterday, the Vermont League of Conservation Voters also joined in. There’s no question that recent weeks have been good to Racine…
…but (and this is a big “but”)…
For all the same reasons these groups have backed him, the state’s most influential endorsers – newspapers – likely won’t (and not just the Free Press, which historically loathes Racine). It’s hard to say who will be the biggest beneficiary of the fourth estate’s largesse when that time comes, but it very well may turn out to be…
Bartlett adrift, but is that all about to change? Susan Bartlett continues to get high marks at forums and debates, but is still not developing the primary support that her rivals have. Her campaign also continues to make some odd tactical decisions (for example, going out of it’s way to draw attention to the recent Rasmussen poll that showed her behind the pack).
It’s a rough time, and there are only weeks left, but based on the history and temperament of many Vermont’s newspapers it’s likely that she will pick up quite a few endorsements (to the extent that the newspapers make primary endorsements) – and those endorsements do hold sway with many. If such an endorsement wave materializes out of this exercise in pure speculation, whether it can generate a last minute surge of significance for her likely depends on whether or not the voting turnout is traditionally low (which may help), or whether the added excitement raises it to historic levels, as many predict.
Markowitz steady. Much of the focus of the campaigns lately has been to attempt to grab some of the headlines from Racine. Markowitz has a nice new campaign vid out which helps that cause, but was also the closest thing to a beneficiary from the recent Rasmussen “poll” (if you can call it that – more on them another time). The numbers still show Markowitz with relatively high name recognition and favorables, and enables her to continue making her primary argument; that she is the most competitive against Brian Dubie.
It’s clear that Markowitz’s base is strong, and whatever erosion she may have experienced earlier in the year when the other campaigns kicked their operations up had anecdotally stabilized. The numbers recently released not only confirm that, but make it clear she is still in a commanding position.
Shumlin wobbly, but still a force. The news hasn’t been good for Peter Shumlin after the session, as the absence of the easy public microphone provided by his position in the Senate has mightily impacted his capacity to generate a presence in the headlines. A high profile endorsement from popular fiscal centrist Jeb Spaulding puts him back on the radar screen, and as the strongest speaker on the stump, Shumlin continues to impress at forums. Obviously, Shumlin needs to be sure this doesn’t sugar out into a 2-person race between Racine and Markowitz, but at this point, the race still feels far more open and dynamic than that, due somewhat to Shumlin’s persistance, but more as a credit to the efforts of…
The Dunne Machine. Matt Dunne, like Shumlin, needs to make sure this doesn’t polarize into a 2 person race in the final month and half, as he would not be likely to be one of those two given Markowitz’s base and Racine’s institutional backing. The Windsor County native took affirmative steps to keeping the mix open by introducing the state to his vaunted field network last week during a series of public events targeted to key Democratic communities where he will need to mine votes, and where word-of-mouth can have a big impact.
Much of the energy his opponents have been using to find headlines, Dunne has also apparently been using to build his field network, and his strength there keeps him competitive. Raise your hand if you’re an active Democrat who has not received a call from a Dunne supporter in recent weeks.