by Peter Freyne
Wednesday afternoon they stood shoulder-to-shoulder at Ol' Bernardo's Campaign HQ in Burlington. At the moment, they said, nobody can predict what'll happen next Tuesday, but, "The Democrats have a chance to win the Senate," said soon-to-be U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders.
That would make Patrick Leahy, the Montpeculiar kid, the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
St. Patrick would also be #2 on Senate Agriculture and #3 on Senate Appropriations. The former Vermont county prosecutor (from the Richard Nixon, Vietnam War/Watergate era) has been working down there near Foggy Bottom one hell of a long time. Seniority, seniority, seniority. Brighter days are coming. Said Leahy:
"I can’t think of anything that’s going to make me happier on January3rd than to walk down that center aisle of the United States Senate andwatch Bernie Sanders take that very moving oath of office as a UnitedStates Senator."
Sen. Sanders' committee assignments are yet to be determined. Banking? Foreign Relations? Environment? Veterans Affairs? Think anyone's worried?
Should be fun. Already the Brits are taking notice. "Vermont Poised to Elect America's First Socialist Senator" writes The Guardian in today's edition:
Amid the furious debate over Iraq and the speculation that George Bush may be a lame duck after next Tuesday's mid-term elections, an extraordinary political milestone is approaching: a cantankerous 65-year-old called Bernie looks set to become the first socialist senator in US history.
Bernie Sanders is so far ahead in the contest for Vermont's vacant seat for the US Senate that it seems only sudden illness or accident could derail his rendezvous with destiny, after eight terms as the state's only congressman. His success flies in the face of all the conventional wisdom about American politics.
The Guardian's Julian Borger took our advice and called John McClaughry. Hey, got to get both sides. Besides, Vermont's most vocal conservative sourpuss gives good bite.
We asked Bernie if his well-dressed and ineffective Republican opponent Richie Rich Tarrant had surprised him with anything he did in his grossly lavish and puzzling $7 million campaign. Replied Ol' Bernardo:
"To be honest with you, what Mr. Tarrant has done is runa pretty traditional, 2006 Karl Rovian-type campaign. He hasspent a great deal of money running what many people consider to be themost negative campaign in Vermont history. In this case it has not worked and I think in many ways it hasbackfired. But to tell you the truth I think we kind of anticipatedwhat would happen."
And in anticipation, Sanders had an extraordinary grassroots campaign effort. Vermont's all-time biggest.
"We knocked on close to 70,000 doors. We have 8000 individualcontributors...andwe have moblized close to 2000 volunteers. I think that’s something’sthat’s unprecedented and we’re very proud of that effort. What excites me very much is the turnouts have been phenomenal. There’sa lot of excitement. People are ready for change. They want to endone-party government."
Yes they do. Very, very, very much.
P.S. On today's plate: Big noontime rally for the Democrat/Independent ticket at the Unitarian Church in Burlington today. Pat & Bernie & Welchie. Scudder and Matt Dunne, too.
Meanwhile, Republicans appear to be laying rather low. Gov. Jim Douglas will, however, be saying a few words at the Annual Governor's Conference on Recreation at Lake Morey at 4 p.m.