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The Final Countdown: Election 2010

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This is it, folks: the final three days before Armageddon, er, the Rapture. No, wait. Oh, right -- Election Day 2010.

Here are a few political tidbits and observations as we make the final mad dash for the ballot box.

Vermont's politicos were shocked — shocked! – that the Rutland Herald and Barre Montpelier Times Argus endorsed Republican Brian Dubie over Democrat Peter Shumlin yesterday.

The reason?

Throughout the fall, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial pages of the Herald (and to some extent its sister paper, the Times Argus) have lambasted Dubie for shedding his "aw shucks," nice-guy demeanor and running a campaign copied from the GOP Congressional playbook.

I surmised in "Fair Game" this week that Shumlin would nab the remaining daily newspaper endorsements (save the Newport Daily Express, perhaps). Why? "Liberal media bias," of course.

The Burlington Free Press endorsement last week was a bit of a shocker, but not as much as was the Herald's.

Interestingly, the first thing I noticed about the editorial is that it was signed by publisher R. John Mitchell. Editorial boards as a whole usually make these endorsements, not one individual. Editorials, rightly or wrongly, are not written by one member for the majority, like Supreme Court opinions. Though, in this case, it might have been fun to read the minority opinion.

So, why did the publisher sign the editorial?

"It means there was a lack of consensus on the editorial board, of which he is a member. And since, as publisher, he has the final say, he thought he ought to indicate that this was coming from him," wrote David Moats, the paper's Pulitzer-winning editorial-page writer, in an email to Seven Days.

The editorial makes for some good robo-call copy, nonetheless. I'll link to the full editorial (but be warned, it's behind the paper's paywall, so nonsubscribers will not be able to see it in full). I'll post a couple of salient paragraphs.

First, it's clear the paper was trying to look past the campaign rhetoric and see each major candidate for who he is and what he hopes to achieve as Vermont's next governor.

"We need to take a step back and look at both Brian Dubie and Peter Shumlin as they were before their television makeovers at the hands of political hacks, and put them in the context of the priorities and professed aims they have outlined for Vermont," the editorial states.

Here's how the Herald views Shumlin:

We admire Peter Shumlin’s political ability, agility and courage, as exemplified by leading the Legislature to consider gay marriage and his work on crafting a workable budget in difficult times. Detractors called the gay marriage effort a political calculation, but for opponents of civil rights, there is never a right time to change. Shumlin has shown the ability to wield legislative power, by imposing a budget over Gov. James Douglas’s veto, and pushing what amounted to a vote of no confidence in Vermont Yankee through the Senate this year.

This ability is also the reason Vermonters should not support him for governor. Is it in Vermont’s best interest to grant what is in effect a blank political check to a Democratic governor, with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House? The danger we run is that the legislative compromises we will end up with will be tilted far to one end of the political spectrum.

Here's why the Herald decided to back Dubie:

When we look at the political history of Brian Dubie, we are confronted by a different model of leadership. Shumlin’s Primary Election opponents came together to claim that the Brian Dubie of the General Election campaign is “not the Brian we know.” That’s because Dubie has been pragmatic and constructive as lieutenant governor, rather than divisive. He has a more nuanced view on Vermont Yankee than you might expect and has offered budget goals that any private company would find reasonable and achievable.

The question on Dubie is whether he has the skill and ability to craft both short- and long-term solutions with a Democratic Legislature.

Vermont has a tradition of our local politicians defying the easy definition imposed by the national parties. George Aiken was an independent in Republican clothes; Dick Snelling raised taxes as a Republican; Howard Dean was a fiscal conservative as a Democrat; and James Douglas has been a principled moderate. With the power in the Legislature squarely in the hands of the Democrats, we need a governor who can balance the demands of the dominant political party not with a “no” at every turn, but with alternative solutions and a willingness to compromise. We believe Brian Dubie is that candidate.

So, there ya have it, folks.The Herald, and Mitchell in particular, is appealing to the "better Brian" -- perhaps in hopes that Dubie will truly be that nice guy beneath the nasty campaign veneer.

The Valley News and Stowe Reporter — which often endorse Republicans — endorsed Shumlin yesterday.

 

Hey, Big Spenders

Despite massive amounts of spending on behalf of their respective candidates, out-of-state groups have remained quiet this week as the gubernatorial campaigns head into the final weekend.

The Secretary of State's office has been posting the "mass media" filings daily on its website (at least during the work week). You can check out all the mass media filings here.

The Republican Governors Association's PAC — Green Mountain Prosperity — hasn't spent anyting substantive since October 20, when it paid for $25,000 in TV ads featuring a few pro-choice women supporting Dubie. One of the women in the ad was Mary Alice McKenzie, Dubie's cousin and a so-called "Democrat for Dubie." The ad also included the spouse of a Douglas appointee and Debra Ricker, who has donated thousands of dollars to Dubie's campaign personally and through her various businesses — L&D Safety Marking Company and WorkSafe Traffic Control Industries.

Previously, on October 15, the RGA's PAC spent $149,000 on TV and radio spots.

On the Democratic side, the Democratic Governors Association and other Shumlin allies continue to spend bucks on TV and radio ads this week.

On October 15, the DGA made a $73,000 media buy for Shumlin without specifying where the money was being spent. On October 22, the association spent $33,000 on direct mail in support of Shumlin, and on October 27 reported another $140,000 media buy, again without indicating where the money was spent. 

The campaigns themselves, of course, are dumping plenty of money into the race this final week.

On October 22, Dubie's campaign reported a $127,000 media buy but did not specify the type of advertising.

Late Friday, the Dubie campaign filed a mass-media report with the Secretary of State's office noting it was spending $87,000 on a mailing. I wonder if they'll make "lit drops" during the "final approach" tour?

On October 21, Shumlin reported a $93,500 media buy for TV and radio ads and another $46,495 on direct mail. Then, this week, the campaign reported a $90,000 media buy for TV and radio ads.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's Action Fund spent another $50,000 on TV ads criticizing Dubie's stance on abortion, and the Vermont League of Conservation Voters spent $6500 on a mailing to its members in support of Shumlin.

  

The Final Approach

Republican Brian Dubie has embarked on another of his themed tours this weekend, dubbing his last-minute campaign whistlestop tour the "Final Approach." I suspect we'd have lots of pilot and flight-themed events during a Dubie administration.

The tour is taking Dubie largely through safe GOP territory — save Brattleboro — which makes this more like a "Safe Landing" tour. He'll make big pushes in Franklin and Rutland counties, as well as the Northeast Kingdom, but will spend a considerable amount of time door-knocking in St. Albans.

Missing from the tour will be the highly visible and highly charged sign wavers from the Professional Firefighters of Vermont. Their anger over Dubie's attacks on the Vermont Troopers Association — and its president, MIchael O'Neil — has led the union to all but retract its endorsement. Dubie's name is not included in their get-out-the-vote script, Seven Days has learned, though the calls mention other statewide candidates.

Democrat Peter Shumlin is also making the rounds of the state, but he doesn't have a catchy theme for his tour. He'll be touring diners on Sunday with U.S. Sen Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, and then back to Burlington for a big rally with Vice President Joe Biden.

Can you feel the "Joe-mentum?" Hey, it's a big fucking deal to have the veep come visit, right?

Both sides are doing what they can to rally the faithful. The overall negative tone of the campaign is likely to suppress some of the youth and independent vote, which means getting the party faithful to the polls will be key on election day.

Recent skirmishes in court and continued debate about the future of Vermont Yankee are likely to have little effect on the electorate at this point.

As I noted in this week's "Fair Game," the momentum is on Shumlin's side, but Dubie is still holding his own. As with the primary — the greater the voter turnout, the better it is for Shumlin. The lower the turnout, the better it is for Dubie.

At this point, I can't get a good bead on the final outcome. For now, I'll say that if Dubie holds on and wins, he wins by two to three points but receives less than 50 percent (which means the legislature will have the final say, and it's rare for them to choose the popular vote loser). If Shumlin pulls off a victory, he'll win by four to five points and will get 51 to 53 percent, keeping it out of the legislature.

Three. Days. Left.

 

Food for Thought

One final note: I neglected to mention this in my column this week but Charlie, Ernie & Lisa will host their annual "Open Mic Monday" during their morning show on WVMT (620 AM). They broadcast from a studio down the tree-laden lane known as Ernie Farrar Drive, off Malletts Bay Avenue in Colchester.

It's a great tradition — any politician running for office gets 60 seconds of "free" air time in exchange for a non-perishable donation to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. Just stop by the studio, drop off your donation and sign up to get on their air. A little "graft" for the hosts is always encouraged, too. Doughnuts and pastries will do.

You'll see everyone from statewide officials to legislators lined up in the lobby and all for some great causes — democracy and making sure people have enough to eat.

The show airs from 6 to 10 a.m.

Questions? Email talk[at]newstalk620wvmt.com.

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