2016: the year of surprises. Donald Trump sweeping to victory in Nevada and South Carolina this week has every pundit in the game eating crow. Bernie’s huge win in New Hampshire was unthinkable a few months back. That said, we’re going to have to wait a while longer to be surprised when it comes to the Vermont governor’s race.
The VPR poll didn’t say anything shocking on the subject of who will occupy Vermont’s top office next year. First of all- Vermonters aren’t paying attention yet, and that’s good news for the Democrats. Fully 2/3 of Vermonters are either not following the race closely or not following it at all.
It’s no surprise that Lt. Governor Phil Scott polls well. He is the only candidate in the race who occupies statewide office. He has the best name recognition. The casual reader might say that it looks like he has a huge lead. Only one-third of respondents said they could tell whom they favored in the Governor’s race so far. So, you can throw out the question that tries to stack all of the four candidates against each other. Democrats and Independents aren’t yet ready to say which candidate they support.
Republicans are clear about their choice for Governor. Phil Scott is the solid favorite on the Republican side. Bruce Lisman couldn’t hit double digits no matter how the question was asked. After all of the time, effort and (of course) money that Bruce Lisman put into Campaign for Vermont and his race the VPR poll must be a big disappointment.
Matt Dunne has a solid lead against Sue Minter across regions and demographics. Still, those who are not sure who to vote for make up the majority of Democrats, so it’s still anyone’s game. A friend reminded me today that Brian Dubie had a 20 point lead all summer long in 2010 as the Democrats were battling it out. Dubie’s poll numbers dropped quickly once the race was head-to-head.
My money says that Scott’s numbers will dive like Brian Dubie’s if one of the Democrats surges and becomes the presumptive nominee, and will definitely do so once the primary happens. August is a long way away at this point though, and a lot can happen in six months.
If Donald Trump or another wild candidate like Senator Ted Cruz wins the Republican nomination it won’t help Lt. Governor Scott’s chances of winning in November. While the conventional wisdom says Scott will be our next Governor, I think 2016 is the year of the unconventional.
Matt Dunne must be looking at this poll and seeing the opportunity. He has the early advantage among Democrats and if he can introduce himself to the 2/3 of Vermonters who aren’t paying much attention yet he may be able to do the unbelievable and beat Phil Scott in November.