The multi-tool of Vermont journalism, Pete “Mr. Microphone” Hirschfeld, has been up to his ears in coverage of the Legislature’s waning days… and yet he somehow found time to break a bit of political news:
Bruce Lisman, the former Wall Street executive and founder of Campaign for Vermont, confirmed Friday that he’s “seriously” considering a run for governor.
… “I think about it now because so many people ask me, and the numbers of people asking me have escalated,” Lisman said.
Ooh ooh ooh! Please please PLEASE, Bruce, pleeeease run! If you do, I will never have been happier to be dead wrong in all my life.
I’ve insisted for some time that Lisman is too smart to run for Governor: he’d have to know that, aside from his Wall Street fortune and the self-generated buzz of publicity around Campaign for Vermont*, he’d bring very little to a campaign against Governor Shumlin. He lacks charisma, he’s a lousy speechmaker, he has no political experience whatsoever, he has no relationships within any of Vermont’s political parties. Indeed, he’s pissed off a fair share of top politicos due to Campaign for Vermont’s relentless self-promotion and credit-grabbing. Plus, of course, he’d be battling an entrenched incumbent with a very strong party machine, a record-breaking warchest, and a lengthy record as a winning politician. In a state that virtually always re-elects incumbents.
* A buzz primarily limited to the political classes of Vermont. Even though Lisman made a big show of putting on CFV events around the state, I seriously doubt that the vast majority of potential voters have any idea who he is.
But hey, if Lisman has that bad a case of Rich Man’s Self-Delusionary Syndrome, then by all means, let him run. I will happily shout it from the housetops: “I WAS WRONG!”
Because, by swooping in and hogging the anti-Shumlin spotlight, he could do so much damage to the VTGOP, the conservative movement, and the faux-centrist movement. It’d be the best thing to happen to the Vermont Democratic Party since, oh… since Lenore Broughton entrusted her fortune to Tayt Brooks, International Man of Mystery.
Lisman’s self-absorbed musing has already tossed a monkey wrench into the plans of a close political ally, State Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, who’s been edging toward a gubernatorial candidacy of her own. Indeed, I’ve heard that she was all set to announce — until Lisman started his little Hamlet act. As I’ve said before, Scheuermann’s only hope to run a competitive race is if Lisman gives her a big financial boost. And if he’s running, he won’t be supporting her campaign.
But Scheuermann’s ambitions would be the least of the collateral damage from a Lisman run. He would, in one fell swoop, deal a potentially fatal blow to his own advocacy group AND to Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s effort to drag the VTGOP into the 21st Century, handing control back to the Darcie Johnstons and John MacGoverns of the world.
Let’s take those one at a time.
First, Lisman has assiduously tried to position Campaign for Vermont as a nonpartisan organization, willing to consider any and all ideas for improving state government. He has trumpeted the fact that CFV’s membership includes conservatives and liberals, Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives. (And downplayed the fact that the conservatives and Republicans vastly outnumber the liberals.) But if he launches a gubernatorial campaign immediately after stepping out of CFV leadership, he will lend credence to the idea that CFV was never serious about policy — it was just a stalking horse for Lisman’s personal political plans. And, whether he runs as a Republican or an Independent, his main target will be Governor Shumlin — which means he will have to campaign against Democratic Party policies, which will make him look like a Republican even if he doesn’t run as one.
He’s already in danger of shredding CFV’s credibility with his recent spate of Republican contributions: at least $35,000 to Republican groups this year alone (plus his top-ticket presence at December’s Chris Christie fundraiser) and Jack Diddly Squat to Democrats.
Second, Phil Scott and his allies have promoted the idea that the VTGOP must broaden its appeal. This is such anathema to the conservative true believers that they were willing to vote for proven loser John MacGovern as state party chair rather than accept Scott’s choice. (David Sunderland, who ain’t exactly a liberal himself.) If Lisman runs as a Republican, he hijacks the centrist movement, turning it into an instrument of his own objectives — further demonizing it in the precincts of the right.
And if Lisman runs as an Independent, he’ll give the VTGOP two choices, both of them bad. Stay out of the race and support Lisman, in which case the True Believers may sit on their hands in November and never forgive Scott and the centrists; or run a Republican candidate, splitting the anti-Shumlin vote and ensuring the Governor’s re-election. Either way, Lisman loses, and he sows further discord in Republican ranks.
Postscript. This being a story about Vermont Republican politics, Hirschfeld was legally obligated to get a quote from Darcie “Hack” Johnston, political grifter, consistent loser, and current paid official of a campaign in Arizona, for God’s sake. (She does have the advantage of always, ALWAYS being available for comment. Handy for busy reporters.) The Hack told Hirschfeld that she welcomes Lisman’s financial support for Republican causes, but that his potential candidacy points out the failure of current VTGOP leadership.
“Leaders of the Republican Party have failed to stand up and support candidates within the party that offered Vermonters real opportunity,” Johnston said. “And as a result, Bruce Lisman is able and willing to step into that vacuum.”
Ahem. If the Hack would assign blame for a shortage of Republican candidates for Governor, I suggest she consult a mirror. It was, after all, the abject failure of the Randy Brock campaign (expensively managed by one Darcie Johnston) that gave potential Republican candidates the very strong idea that running for Governor was a sure ticket to political oblivion.