Running under Shumlin’s nose?

Vermonters probably wouldn’t fault or be shocked by a politician keeping the next campaign never far from his or her mind. And certainly not many would fault an office holder for wanting to keep their face in the spotlight and their ear to the ground listening to the public mood.

However I am left wondering if Vermont Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott hasn’t crafted a highly visible yet stealthy campaign for higher office that operates right under Governor Shumlin’s nose.

Scott’s “Vermont Everyday Jobs” initiative featuring the required Republican heavy emphasis on listening to businesses is designed to:

promote Vermont businesses and highlight the hard work that Vermonters do every day in all areas of our economy. By finding out firsthand, and in a hands-on manner, what it takes to make Vermont businesses work, the Lt. Governor will gain a better understanding of what state government can do to help those businesses work better. The tour will also help to facilitate relationships and ongoing dialogue between Vermont business leaders and their representatives in state government.

It’s hard to miss the genius of what Republican Lt. Governor Phil Scott, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the Discovery Channels’ “Dirty jobs” host Mike Rowe, hit upon with his “Vermont Everyday Jobs” Initiative. It’s a pre-chewed publicity package for cash strapped local media outlets, Facebook and social media. It is as if the last gubernatorial election’s contrived and awkward listening tours by former Lt.Gov.Brian Dubie had evolved legs or wings to emerge from the primordial ooze of past elections as a higher campaign life form to live among us year round.

Scott has so far spent his “Vermont Everyday Jobs” publicity outings gaining a better understanding of being an emergency department worker at a hospital, a worker on an electric utility power line crew, fast lube franchise oil changer, a solar panel assembler and spelling instructor at a K-2 school.

That’s six “Everyday Jobs” events under his belt (about one every 2 weeks) with more likely to follow in a steady series of press releases.   Maybe the concept came to him while watching TV.

13 thoughts on “Running under Shumlin’s nose?

  1. which tell him that, in order to get ahead with their dumbed-down constituency, you have to be perceived as a reality TV personality.

  2. So, he’s gonna try touting some “real work” cred then, if elected, say that he didn’t need any collective bargaining, so why would anybody else?

  3. It would be a serious mistake to underestimate Phil Scott.  Remember, Shumlin won by the proverbial “nose” while Scott is far more acceptable on social issues than Dubie was. That’s why Shumlin brought him into the “tent” — a smart effort to try and blunt any possibility of Scott’s challenging him in 2012. But he may run anyway and be a formidable opponent.

  4. Phil Scott is probably the most talented potential candidate in the Republican stable – he comes off as socially moderate, has lots of both blue collar and business appeal, and is a personable capable campaigner. Of all the Republicans out there, he seems to be the biggest threat.

    But I don’t see him running in 2012. What Republican challenger in their right mind would decide to try to swim upstream against the political realities of Vermont in a presidential election year? Obama on the ballot running against someone able to get the nomination of a tea bagging dominated Republican party, while nationally Republicans have to defend a proposal to abolish Medicare and Medicaid, Bernie Sanders running for  re-election to the Senate (spending millions on a ground game for GOTV), and a high turnout of Democratic voters. As a one term Lite Gov, Scott knows the ground isn’t yet fertile for him to take on a first term Governor – with 2 year terms, Vermonters like to give governors a chance before turfing them out. He’s looking at 2014 or beyond.  

    2012 won’t be the year that a relatively sane Republican like Scott will decide to try to go for higher office – that kamikaze mission will be reserved for nut jobs like Salmon and Lauzon.

    But make no mistake, Phil Scott is carefully laying the groundwork for a future run. Things like his “Everyday Jobs” events are designed to enhance his profile, raise his name recognition, and establish himself in the Lt. Gov. job so he doesn’t need to worry about being washed away in a good Democratic year of 2012. He’s a smart, talented politician – he knows that doing this stuff now has potential for benefits down the road for him.

    BTW — politicians have been doing the “work a real person’s job for a day” routine for decades (the first one I’m aware of was Tom Harkin when he was running for Congress in the 1970s), so  it is unlikely that Scott thought it up while watching reality TV (although the resemblance to Rowe is striking – maybe Scott has a future in TV if he ever gives up on politics and car racing…).

  5. Is Mr. Scott’s company union? If it isnt maybe someone should try and organize it to see if Mr. Scott would be ok with a union.

  6. The practical reality is that the Lt. Gov has one main job and that is to increase his or her name recognition in the state — to become well known and well liked for that day when he or she decides to run for Governor (or US Senate).  

    Shumlin knows this as well as anyone.  Clearly his philosophy is to keep his friends close and his enemies closer – this is why Shumlin made Scott a member of his cabinet.  This is unprecedented.  (When then Lt Gov Kunin asked to sit in on cabinet meetings, Governor Snelling laughed in her face.  And when she became Governor, she would not allow Lt. Gov Peter Smith to serve in her cabinet.)

    Shumlin keeps Scott very close — which he hopes will immunize him from a Scott run.  It’s a slightly risky strategy because it also elevates Scott’s profile.  And if it prevents Scott from running against Shumlin it will make it much harder for the next Democrat who runs for governor – so it’s also a slightly selfish strategy on Shumlin’s part.  

    At the end of the day, I think that Scott will realize that it’s too risky to take on a gubernatorial incumbent in the State of Vermont.  He’ll continue on as Lt. Gov until Shumlin resigns or Leahy resigns.  Then he’ll make his move.

  7. Allowing Phil Scott into the tent may be smart tactics… but it also may be just the opposite. Just take a look next door, where NH Gov. John Lynch renominated Kelly Ayotte as Attorney General at the end of her first term in the job (she was originally chosen by one-term Republican disaster Craig Benson).

    At the time, it was just another example of Lynch’s effort to occupy the political center. And Ayotte had positioned herself as a relatively moderate technocrat. Now, with Ayotte firmly entrenched in the Senate for six years and ardently embracing the right-wing agenda, it’s clear that Lynch let the wrong camel in his tent.

    Of course, Lynch could have avoided the elevation of Ayotte by choosing a Democrat for AG, while Shumlin had no choice about the selection of Phil Scott. And he can’t stop Scott from self-promotional activities. But for the sake of his own party, Shumlin should avoid doing anything to enhance Scott’s profile.

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