It all began in January 2009 when the first Democrat announced he was running for governor, just days before Gov. Jim Douglas was sworn into office for the fourth time.
The Democrat was Sen. Doug Racine, the man Douglas defated in 2002.
Now here we are — 22 months later — and it's come down to a near dead heat between Republican Brian Dubie and Democrat Peter Shumlin. See my predictions below the jump.
Shumlin was the last to get into the race — officially — among the Democrats, but he managed to beat Racine by 203 votes in a five-way primary. Racine requested a recount, which took less than a week to complete.
Dubie leapt into the race only after Douglas decided he wouldn't opt for a fifth term. Other Republicans flirted with the idea, including Auditor Tom Salmon (who had just left the Democratic Party), former Ambassador Rodolphe "Skip" Vallee, among others.
Both Shumlin and Dubie held rallies today to pump up the faithful. Vice President Joe Biden stumped in Vermont for Shumlin. I posted a video of Shumlin and Biden's speeches in two parts: Part One & Part Two.
About 500 people crammed into a cordoned off section of the Patrick Gymnasium — a rather small crowd given the main attraction was a sitting vice president. Biden, too, at times seemed like he was having an intimate chat with friends over a coffee than in a roomful of people who wanted to be, well, inspired.
Biden implored the crowd to put Shumlin in the governor's office and help re-elect Rep. Peter Welch and Sen. Patrick Leahy. "This is not your grandfather's Republican party," he warned the roomful of Democrats and independents who may be thinking of supporting the GOP this election cycle.
Dubie hosted a rally in Essex at the Champlain Valley Exposition; it was the final stop on his "Final Approach" tour which had taken him across the state. Gov. Jim Douglas joined him on part of the trip as they hit GOP strongholds in the Northeast Kingdom and Rutland and Franklin counties before landing in Chittenden County. I posted Dubie's final rallying cry to supporters here.
Unlike the Biden event, the Dubie crowd only measured about 225. But what it lacked in numbers it made up for in volume and energy. On their way out the door, people were invited back to Dubie campaign headquarters to call potential voters and eat pizza. Or, participants could take a packet and call 50 people from the privacy of their homes.
Both Dubie and Shumlin will greet voters in populous Chittenden County today.
The election remains tight according to recent polls, but turnout will be the determining factor. Which isn't saying much, because it almost always is.
Among those polled who had already cast their ballots, which is expected to be about 25 percent of the voters in this election, Shumlin leads Dubie 56 percent to 38 percent. He may need that extra push if independents opt to sit out this election due to the negative tone of some of the radio and TV advertisements on both sides.
My predictions are as follows, as I see two scenarios depending on actual voter turnout:
Scenario 1: If voter turnout stays at 60 percent of registered voters, or less, then Dubie will win by two to three percentage points (47-49 percent total). It's also likely that Dubie doesn't crest above 50 percent, which would force the legislature to make the final decision.
Scenario 2: If voter turnout reaches closer to 65 (or even 70 percent) I would give the edge then to Shumlin and could see him winning with 52-54 percent of the vote.
The last time an open seat for governor fell during a midterm election was in 2002, when Douglas bested Racine by three percentage points.
As background, below are voter turnout stats from previous Vermont midterm elections dating back to 1994, as reported by the Secretary of State's Office.
See you out and about today at the polls. Don't forget — vote early & vote often.
ELECTION - 1994
TOTAL REGISTERED: 373442
ACTUAL VOTERS: 216666
NO, OF ABSENTEE 20913
VOTER TURNOUT: 58.2%
ELECTION - 1998
TOTAL REGISTERED: 402603
ACTUAL VOTERS: 220991
NO. OF ABSENTEE: 23681
VOTER TURNOUT 54.89%
ELECTION - 2002
TOTAL REGISTERED: 418718
ACTUAL VOTERS: 232993
NO. OF ABSENTEE: 35417
VOTER TURNOUT: 56%
ELECTION - 2006
TOTAL REGISTERED: 433572
ACTUAL VOTERS: 263025
NO. OF ABSENTEE: 53092
VOTER TURNOUT: 60.7%