So the Vermont Republicans held their annual convention on Saturday in the Montpelier High School Auditorium. I guess the gathering was largely unencumbered by the presence of the media; as far as I can tell, only the Vermont Press Bureau published a story about the event on Sunday. Maybe the Freeps is saving it for Monday, I don’t know.
For those blocked by the Mitchell Family Paywall, here are some highlights from the day.
Less than 24 hours after his stunning decision not to seek re-election as Auditor, Tom Salmon was actually brave enough to make an appearance in front of the people he’d just screwed over.
(According to Vermont Digger, Salmon insisted on May 11 that he would run for re-election. He then withdrew on May 18, only three and a half weeks before the filing deadline. If it wasn’t for the fact that two Senators* (so far) are chomping at the bit to run, the Republicans would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Or a Salmon. And they would have been fully justified in booing the Fish-Man off the stage.)
*Kevin Mullin and Vince Illuzzi. Actually, Illuzzi says he is looking at both Auditor and Attorney General, as well as running for the Senate again. Gee, dithering about which office to run for; sounds like Vince is following in Salmon’s footsteps.
And, if the VPB account can be believed, Salmon got off the line of the day:
“I grew up with two Democratic parents. And those Democratic parents taught me to tell the truth and to hold myself accountable,” the Republican auditor said in a speech. “And, as a result, I became a Republican.”
Bahahahaha. THe crowd ate it up, ignoring the disingenuousness of the remark. Do we need to recount the sordid history of Salmon’s pique-inspired party switch, nine months into his second term as Auditor? He didn’t exactly “tell the truth” to the voters in 2008, did he? DId he “hold [him]self accountable” when he dabbled with running for every other office in the state, or when he wasted his time sending out questionnaires to “uncover” embezzlements that had already been fully investigated and reported? Or when he abandoned his party with no advance notice? Just a written press release on a Friday afternoon — Bad News Dump Day.
Well, let’s leave it there, and move on to the rest of the convention.
Randy Brock trotted out a new stump speech, in which he promised to “pull Vermont back from the edge of the abyss where Peter Shumlin and his cohorts have taken it.”
Gee, Randy, is that the “abyss” with stable taxes, a balanced budget, and a massive head-start on Irene reconstruction? Not to mention Vermont’s shiny new 4.6% unemployment rate? That’s the nicest damn abyss I’ve ever seen. Clearly, Brock is playing from the boilerplate Republican playbook: accuse the Democrats of perfidy, recklessness, and radicalism. Yes, Brock actually called Shumlin “the most liberal governor in our history.” Predictable.
Pursuing the same line of rhetorical excess, Brock dubbed Shumlin’s health care plan “Titanic Care”: “It’s huge, it’s new, it’s untested, it’s got an overconfident captain who ignores predictable
dangers just below the surface, and it’s going to sink.”
How timely, a Titanic reference on the 100th anniversary. I wonder which of his expensive consultants wrote that for him. Is he going to have an intern dress up in a Titanic costume, or maybe wear a captain’s uniform and a Shumlin mask? Is the poor $21 million bear headed for the unemployment line? When the VTGOP announces its full statewide ticket, will they wear Avengers costumes? Randy will be Captain America and I guess Phil Scott would be Thor. If Illuzzi is on the ticket, I’d pick him for The Hulk: the mild-mannered little guy who occasionally morphs into a bad-tempered behemoth. But who gets to tell Wendy Wilton that she has to put on the Black Widow getup?
Beyond the partisan bombast, there were strong indications that all is not well with the VTGOP. With less than four weeks until the filing deadline, there are still some apparent vacancies on the ticket. And its only candidates for Congress and Senate are little-known no-hopers.
Party chair Jack Lindley has made optimistic noises about retaking the State House and Senate. But House Minority Leader Don Turner is far less sanguine:
“I’m focused hard on keeping the numbers we’ve got, so really anything over 48 is a win,” Turner said. “But if we could get to 60, I’d be extremely happy.”
This year, the Republicans have 47 seats out of 150. Turner’s goal is to hold his ground, and his best-case scenario is 60? Sad. And dispiriting for Randy Brock as well:
“If I’m elected governor and the Legislature stays as unbalanced as it is, my options are going to be severely limited,” he said
All in all, a lot of predictable Republican rhetoric from the stage and a lot of low expectations in the crowd. Hardly the display of dynamism and unity that could fuel a Republican resurgence this fall.
One more thing: apparently the Ron Paul folks were on hand in force. Paul, you may recall, took 25% of the vote in the presidential primary, second to Mitt Rommey’s 39 percent. And one of the Paul People, tea partier and all-around libertygibbet Jessica Bernier, was nominated to be Vermont’s national committee chairwoman. I’m sure she’ll do Vermont proud at the national convention.