June 27, 2010 -- Political Scientist Eric Davis joins Kristin Carlson and Darren Perron to discuss Election 2010.
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Kristin:.. Good morning everyone I and Kristen Carlson on this edition of you can call me newsmakers and neighbors in the news we are going to have a special focus on the 2010 election. We're going to dedicate the whole show to the race.. There's just two months to go until the August 24 primary. We are joined by political scientist Eric Davis: who's going to help us sort through what is really a very busy and crowded primary race.
Eric.:. Good morning Kristin.
Kristin.: Thanks so much for being here good morning. Let's start with the new poll numbers that came out in the race for governor. This was a poll conducted by the rasmusen group a national group. Their poll numbers had interesting results that looked at all of the candidates what did you make of the results of this poll?
Eric.: What I would say about a poll at this point that trial heats up for the general election it's interesting information but the relative standing of the democratic candidates visa the Bryan Dubie at this point is I believe more a function of the name recognition levels of the democrats that is how the race will shape up in the fall. We'll know a lot more about the shape of The fall campaign once the democrats have a nominee after August 24. With all of that in mind however this poll the show what I would say a very competitive race for governor this fall with Brian Dubie having certain advantages nf two at this Point I would argue give him a slight edge in the gubernatorial race.
Kristin.: It looks like he clears 50% in almost all the races except for one.
Eric.: He clears 50% in several of the trial heats and again some of the looking at the dynamics of the campaign at this point that Brian Dubie has basically started his general election campaign already and he can campaign for the November election while the five democrats battle it out in the August primary. The lieutenant governor has raised a lot of money he said that he has raised $800,000 so far and I think he's on track perhaps to raise as much as $1.5 million.? The eventual democratic nominee is likely going to have to play catch up financially to Dubie. Dubie will benefit from ticket splitting voters. These are people who will vote to send democratic candidates Pat Leahy and Peter Welch back to Washington but who will vote for republican governor to check the democratic majority in the legislature in Montpelier. Jim Douglas is a very popular governor even at the end of eight years in office. The rasmuson polls show that douglas's popularity is about 2 to 1 favorable. Douglas will certainly be supporting Dubie this fall and some of douglas's popularity may rub off on Dubie and help the lieutenant governor. Finally in national polls show that republicans are more enthusiastic about the election this year are more likely to turn out in that the public mood favors candidates who want to restrain the growth of Federal spending and there's no evidence to date that those national trends will be evident in Vermont in the fall.
Kristin.: We should point out that this poll came with some controversy has and automated poll and I've heard you've raised concerns because there's no real vetting process so on the top of the ticket as those who did well in this poll Markowitz Shumlan you are hearing from their campaign that this is good news from folks who are on the lower end of the poll Susan Bartlett they raised the point that in the poll they had the wrong date for the primary this group so really it's just a snapshot.
Eric.: It's a snapshot and in the polling community people will argue about whether it's better to use a live operators to ask the questions because then you can screen the respondents to come up with people who are very likely to vote as opposed to rasmusen's automated method which may not be as good as screening for example making sure that people under 18 are not punching in responses and so forth. Going back Markowitz and Shumlan doing better in this poll than some of the others I believe that's a function of their name recognition. Deb Markowitz has held statewide office for 12 years. Peter Shumlan has been the leader in the state senate. Doug Racine has run statewide before and has been in the senate for some time and has been lieutenant governor before. Those candidates have higher name recognition than Matt Dunn or Susan Bartlett so it's no surprise that name recognition is related to how these democrats do against the Dubie in this early poll. Once we are through the democratic primary then we've narrowed it down to a two person race. Brian Dubie vs. A democrat then that we can get a better sense of how the campaign is going to develop in September October and early November.
Kristin.: Let's talk about some of the candidates here. Let's start at the lower end of where the poll put Susan Bartlett. I've heard from people who have listen to hurt in debates and forums think that Susan Bartlett does really well. She certainly has a handle on the state's economics and budget as being at the share of the state's powerful appropriations committee. But it seems like nobody knows who she is. What does her campaign need to do at this point?
Eric.: Susan Bartlett in a way Susan Bartlett needs something that will let her breakout of this pack. As you said Kristin attendees at the forum have been very impressed with her performance. People under the dome at the statehouse will say that she probably knows more about the budget other than the officials and the administration who put together the budget. But Susan Bartlett has never run statewide before. Her constituency is Lamoille county which is relatively small part of Vermont and she just doesn't have the name recognition of these other candidates who have held statewide office before or have run statewide before have held. So what Senator Bartlett needs to do is find some way that she can break out of this pack and today it seems that she hasn't done that so I think she has perhaps some of the highest hurdles to jump over between Allan August 24th of any of the democratic gubernatorial candidates.
Kristin.: Some of the comments that we have gone at the station are from people wondering why are their five candidates in Wyche and democratic leadership somehow step in and help whittle this down because it is such an untenable thing to cover five candidates in any comprehensive way and particularly I am hearing this concern from democrats who know on the other side that Bryan Dubie the republican is out there and he is already gunning for the general election because he doesn't have a primary battle. So why isn't someone dropping out why can't a democrats get behind one candidate?
Eric.: The political culture in Vermont is not one where there are strong party organizations and strong party leaders who can get everyone in aroma and close the doors to come up with a great solution. That approach is more typical of politics and the state like New York or Illinois' shall we say than in Vermont. Vermont has very weak party organizations. So you have five people getting into the race. Jim Douglas step down last summer and you have an open gubernatorial race for the first time in many years. So all of these ambitious democrats get into the race. I would say the eventual democratic nominee will be helped for the campaign if he or she wins at least 40% of the primary vote or has at least a 10 point margin over the second place finisher in those circumstances there would be a convincing democratic nominee someone who clearly had strong support among democratic primary voters. So if the first place candidate gets let's say 42% of the vote and the second place candidate is that 34% of the vote that would be a convincing victory. If on the other hand you had the first place candidate who is 33% of the vote in the second place candidate with 31% of the vote that's not the sort of distribution of the primary vote is going to really help the winner come out of the primary. The democrats need to unite rapidly behind whoever wins the primary on August 24. The other four candidates need to coalesce around the winner immediately so that the democratic party can present a united front going forward.
Kristin So how do these five candidates that we've talked about Peter Shumlan Susan Bartlett Deb Markowitz Doug Racine Matt Dunn there all vying for this are really narrow slice of vermonters that about 600,000 plus from honors maybe 60,000 will turn out for the primary when you look at the candidates on the issues there are a lot of similarities and some people have wondered will these forums that they are appearing at will they start to get a little sharper with their message against each other to to differentiate against each other.
Eric.: I don't believe in the end is issues that are going to determine this because this is you said on most of the issues that will be on the agenda of the next governor there are not that significant differences among these five candidates. Rather I believe voters will make their choice based on things like the candidate's background what offices have they held in the past what has been their track record in elections in the past what have they accomplished in the office is that they've held and what if they'd done outside of government or outside of state governments how do they present themselves on the stage what sense of voters have of what they might do against Brian Dubie so I would say it's a mix of personal and professional background characteristics that are going to determine this primary outcome rather than issue positions.
Kristin.: Let's talk briefly about some of the other democratic candidates. Matt Dunn the youngest candidate in the race just became a father for the third time had a little girl again if you trust polls he seems to be further down the ticket but I know he has very loyal supporters. What is not done need to do?
Eric.: I would say that looking at the five candidates Matt Dunn may have the most energy of any of the five. He certainly ran a vigorous campaign for lieutenant governor in 2006 and he demonstrated the ability to raise some money. I would say at this point Matt Dunn has the potential to put on a strong closing finish. Deb Markowitz and Doug Racine in my mind are in the top tier of candidates right now but the date that matters is the 24th of August not the last week of june. If Matt Dunn can stay close to Deb Markowitz and Doug Racine in July he I believe may be very well positioned to put on a closing push in the last month of the campaign. He has the energy and if the financial reports to come out in mid July show that he's done well in fund raising which he has a record of an lieutenant governor race four years ago he could very well be in the mix leading up to primary day on August 24.
Kristin.: One person we haven't talked about he mentioned all the names senate President Peter Shumlan has a long career in politics grew up in Putney he has actually run against Brian Dubie before in the lieutenant governor's race it was a three way race that he lost that time what you think his campaign needs to focus on?
Eric.: Shumlan has core supporters. He has people in the southeast part of the state who have voted form for the senate from Wyndham county. He has people who care passionately about closing of Vermont Yankee as soon as possible. People who admire his leadership on the marriage issue but the question I have about the Shumlan campaign is does he have the resources financially and organizationally to match up with Markowitz Racine and Dunn. We will know more about that when the financial reports come out next month. The other question I have about Shumlan is how much appeal is he going to have in the three counties where the largest number of democratic votes will be cast. Which will be Chittenden Washington in Windsor. So how does he moved from his base in Wyndham county and his issue base on the Vermont Yankee in the marriage issues to get an up support to win this democratic primary. As I said the financial numbers will give at least one important index for judging this Shumlan campaign to date.
Kristin.: Two more candidates to go here. Doug Racine has picked up once considered the triple crown of endorsements. He had the AFL CIO the NEA and the VSCA. How big of a deal is that?
Eric.: I would say those endorsements are very important specially VSCA and the NEA. Because both of those organizations are large organizations that have members that are geographically dispersed around the state and they are likely to turn out in the democratic primary. I believe that public employees may make up a pretty significant share of the electric and the democratic primary. So the question four Racine with these endorsements is will the rank and file members of the AFL CIO the NEA and the VSCA follow the recommendations of their leadership and vote for him on August 24. One of the things are a scene needs to do is work with active volunteer people from these unions to talk to their colleagues and spread the message forward for Doug Racine. Certainly these endorsements have helped Doug were seen leaving into the primary.
Kristin.: Deb Markowitz is the current secretary of state she's trying to cast herself as a Montpelier outsider even though she has served in Montpelier for several years. This poll shows her in the lead other polls have shown her also doing very well.
Eric.: I would say that Markowitz.... The question for me with the financial report on the Markowitz campaign is will she maintain her first place position in campaign funding in July of 2010 that she had in the case of the last reports of July of 2009. It seems that the Markowitz campaign is well set up organizationally and they may end up having one of the larger field organizations of any of the campaigns but one of the things that Deb Markowitz needs to do I believe is talk more two voters who care about particular sets of issues. Some of these other candidates seem to have their issue constituents. Doug Racine perhaps the healthcare issue that he's worked a lot on in the legislature in recent years. Matt Dunn seems to be talking a lot about environmental issues and getting endorsements from some key figures in the Vermont environmental community like bill McKibben. Peter Shumlan has as I mentioned before the Vermont Yankee in the marriage issues. Does a Deb Markowitz had a signature issue? Is there something comparable that she can use to mobilize a core constituency? Or is that just not her strategy and she's basing it on other considerations?
Kristin.: Soul while these five candidates are trying to vie and win the primary Brian Dubie has been out there on his own raising lots of money knocking on doors but he is seen as more conservative than republican Governor Jon Douglas. Is that a liability?
Eric.: It could be. I said at the beginning of the discussion that Dubie has certain advantages at this stage of the campaign. But their certain concerns for the Dubie campaign also. Vermont has trended a democratic over the last 20 years. Pat Leahy will be a strong candidate at the top of the democratic ticket. Brian Dubie is the most conservative republican gubernatorial candidate in sometime especially on social issues and Dubie doesn't have the easy familiarity with voters that Jon Douglas has demonstrated over his long career nor does he have the in depth of knowledge of a very wide range of policy issues that both of the governor and some of the legislators who have been dealing with those issues on a daily basis for many years have demonstrated. So Dubie needs to be ready as soon as the democratic primary is over to take on the eventual winner of that primary and then we will start to see some of the contrasts. As I said before there are not too many contrasts among the five democrats in terms of issues. There is a significant differences on a rather large number of issues between any of the democrats and Brian Dubie and those differences will begin to become a parent once we get past the democratic primary into the fall campaign.
Kristin.: We got through the crowded race in the governor's race but we have much more to continue our conversation with a political scientist Eric Davis and we're going to continue that talk just after the brief break stay with us.
Kristin.: We're back with political scientist Eric Davis talking about a really busy 2010 election season that is underway and people are starting to pay attention to it even though it is the middle of the summer. For sure the candidates are. Let's talk briefly about the progressives. This is an interesting strategy they are running a candidate for governor but they've made it clear that once the primary is over that candidate is not going to run Martha Abott. Is that the progress is admitting that they do have a spoiler affect?
Eric.: There is an issue having to do with election law administration that's led the progressives to put up a full slate of candidates for all the offices which is that they didn't want outsiders coming in and winning the progress of nomination on right in switches happened in the past. So this way the progressive party committee could come up with a slate of candidates and those will be the ones that will be on the ballot in the progress of primary because the progressives are a major party under Vermont election law. Martha Abott has indicated that she might very well withdraw from the campaign after the primary. What the progressives are concerned about is that in a very competitive gubernatorial race that even if a progressive candidate were to get only 2 to 3% of the vote that could be the difference between Brian Dubie in the democrats and I think many perhaps not all but many progressives would prefer any of the five democrats to Brian Dubie as governor so my guess is that Martha Abott will end up not being an active candidate for governor this fall.
Kristin.: That seems like a different strategy because we've seen for example progressive Anthony Klein a run a very spirited race even came in second narrowly last time around. Why do you think progressive are taking that approach this time?
Eric.: Two years ago you had Jim Douglas running for 4th term. It was going to be very difficult for anybody to defeat him it took the democrats a very long time to come up with a gubernatorial candidate two years ago so Anthony Polley in a was well positioned to end up getting over 20% of the vote which she did and nearly evenly divided than on Douglas votes with the democratic Gaye Symington. This year it is a very different dynamic. You have an open governorship we know that when governors tend to be elected they tend to serve not just 1 two year term but several two year terms and many not all but many progressives realize that a democrat in the office is going to be more friendly to the issues and that they care about and Brian Dubie.
Kristin.: I'm curious. You've observed and Governor Douglas for some time he's getting ready to wind down and hand over the reins to someone else. Have you noticed any change in him either how he governs or his schedule has he changed in any way?
Eric.: No I haven't noticed anything. He was certainly active during the legislative session right up until the end I believe he is going to do everything he can to help Brian Dubie in the fall campaign but as we get past the election I think once we get past November and the governor is in the last two months of his term of office then he's going to be focused on helping whoever wins the election make an orderly transition for that person's inauguration in early January and Governor Douglas has continued to be active in the national governors association again his term as head of that is winding down but there are some issues that he's worked on with other governors there that in the remaining six months of his term he'll finish up.
Kristin.: This is a wild ride because if you go down the ticket there's primaries for lieutenant governor secretary of state auditor everybody wants something there's just this massive shuffle going on.
Eric.: In affect what happened is the cascading effect of Jon Douglas deciding not to run for reelection.
Kristin.: You move that one person out and everything trickles down to the legislature.
Eric.: So Brian Dubie runs for governor so that creates competitive primaries in both parties for lieutenant governor. Dead Markowitz decides to run for governor that creates competitive primaries in both parties for secretary of state. The auditor position is seen as one where Tom salmon who switch parties may also have some vulnerability so you have a competitive democratic primary for that. A even goes farther down because you have two state senators who are from Chittenden county who are running for statewide office so that will the firm or open election for the sixth person Chittenden senate delegation that we've seen in some time.
Kristin.: So if you are running for lieutenant governor and there are two strong candidates who are democrats and two are republicans how do you even make itself heard among all those other noise.
Eric.: You have to do a lot of work yourself because the focus of the media is going to be primarily on the democratic gubernatorial primary leading up to August 24. Seven the candidates running for these other offices particularly lieutenant governor secretary of state and the democrat is running for auditor they have to get their message out themselves so that means doing house parties around the state and means showing up at fairs parades other events where people are going to be congregating. It means doing direct mail it means having your supporters in local communities around the state spread the word for you but it really has to be a grassroots campaign for the people running for the lower statewide offices.
Kristin.: And just on the democratic side for lieutenant governor there's two stay wraps there's the Steve Howard and Christopher Brand in the republicans side there is mark Snelling the son of the late governor and Senator Phil Scott so they're all going to be trying to appeal to the same slice.
Eric.: And some of these people are better known than others. Mark Snelling has a famous last name ways never run for office. Phil Scott is a republican who's done well in a county that otherwise tends to be strongly democratic so he can point to sort and political advantages they are. The two democrats running for lieutenant governor neither of them are all that well known. Steve Howard is a representative from Rutland Chris Bray is from New Haven he did serve as democratic party chair in the past so he may be a little bit better known among the core democratic activist but I would say in both parties lieutenant governor race is really open and is going to depend in part of how well the candidates get their message across between now and January and the 24th of August.
Kristin.: I've heard talk behind the scenes that when people looked at the democratic slate of candidates they thought there's a lot of strong candidates year. They would hope that maybe some of those candidates might run for auditor or lieutenant governor because I think there is some concern that when you get down there there's lesser name recognition for some of these candidates. How come some of those candidates could say let me try lower tier before a jump up to there.
Eric.: My sense is that they all got in the governor's race because the governorship is open so rarely. If you look at the last governor's Governor Kunin served three terms Governor Snelling served four terms and was in the fifth when he died in office. Howard dean served five plus terms Jim Douglas served four terms so the minimum number of terms any of the recent governors have served is three so my sense is that all of these people that have political ambitions look at this pent up ambition. Jim Douglas says he's not running for reelection everyon decides this may be the first time the governorship will be open for another 6,8 or 10 years so this is the year to run.
Kristin.: This is the first time in a long time that I can remember having such a spirited contest in the secretary of state's office. That's probably not in office a lot of vermonters get energized about but particularly on the republican side I'm getting emails back and forth between Chris Roy and Jason Gibbs one is a longtime republican loyalist one is a longtime aide to Governor Douglas.
Eric.: The interesting thing about secretary of state is while the functions of the office election administration regulation of the profession some business administration things arn't high profile. The job has served as a launching pad for the political career of many successful politicians of the past. That was Jim Douglas is first statewide office he was secretary of state for 12 years. Deb Markowitz has been in that office for 12 years and cheese and a strong position in the democratic gubernatorial primaries so one of the reasons secretary of state is interesting is that people who are thinking about longer term political careers may think it's a good place to be for four, six, eight or 10 years waiting for some higher office to open up in the future because that's been a career path that has worked for people in the past.
Kristin.: Auditors race again or looking at primaries.
Eric.: There is a primary and the democratic side and the auditors race I think maybe one of the more interesting ones this fall because you have Tom salmon who was elected to the offices democrat and then switch to the Republican Party last year. He has been the focus about things not having to do with the business of the auditor's office.
Kristin.: He got a DUI.
Eric.: He had a DUI and then some allegations about using public resources to support the political activities of his campaign.
Kristin.: And I think also swearing at a reporter.
Eric.: Some vigorous language yes. And then on the democratic side you have a primary you have Ed Flanagan who also has personal issues the incident at the YMCA in Burlington. The other democratic candidate is Doug Hofer food is a policy analyst in Burlington who has done a lot of consulting work for democratic organizations and interest groups and candidates over the last few years but has never actually run for office himself so that will be an interesting primary how it all shakes up. Indeed there was some speculation before the filing deadline that randy Brock who held the auditor's office as a republican might get into a primary against Tom salmon but randy Brock then said he'd be running for reelection for the senate of Franklin County.
Kristin.: And briefly in case we forget we have the U.S. senate we have U.S. representative in those other races as well.
Eric.: There are other races as well and the U.S. senate the interesting thing there I believe is not so much will pat Leahy win but what will his percentage be. Senior senators likely he at this stage of their career across the country typically get reelected with between 2/3 and 3/4 vote so high sixties low seventies. This year democratic incumbents Nationwide are facing what may be a republican wave. We have Lynn Britain a business person from the Connecticut Valley who's the republican candidate for U.S. Senate this year. I'm interested to see can Lynn Britain get up to 40% of the vote in other words to hold lady to 60.
Kristin.: We're gonna have to leave it there there's so many things to talk about we've run at a time. Thank you very much and thanks to you for watching stay with us.