Analysis: Can Zuckerman overcome Vermont’s incumbent tide?

Middlebury College political science professor Matt Dickinson weighs in on what to watch in the race for governor.
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 5:51 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It's governor versus lt. governor in the race for the state of Vermont's top job this fall. Incumbent Governor Phil Scott won the Republican primary Tuesday night and now faces a challenge from Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, the Democratic primary winner. Cat Viglienzoni spoke with Middlebury College Political Science Professor Matt Dickinson about what to watch in their campaigns.

"Everything we need to know is that the governor held a press conference the day of the primary and essentially acted as if he wasn't even a candidate for office -- that's how confident he was," Dickinson said.

He says it was no surprise that Governor Phil Scott handily won the GOP nomination. In an interview with Channel 3 Wednesday morning, the governor said he'd campaign this fall but not in the traditional way because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"You have to focus on the pandemic itself, the health crisis that we're facing, the economic crisis, the fallout that we're facing in real-time right now," Scott said.

Governor Phil Scott talks about his Primary win on Channel 3 This Morning.

Dickinson says he expects Scott to keep the pandemic front-and-center from now until the November election and that it's a topic Lt. Governor David Zuckerman will have to address as well if he wants to appeal to concerned voters.

Zuckerman told Channel 3 Wednesday morning that his core campaign issues of paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, and more health care coverage are pandemic issues too. "The reality is, I have put forward visionary ideas for years. And it's going to take serious creativity and vision to build our way out of this pandemic economically, to get our schools open, to get people back to work," he said.

Lt. Governor David Zuckerman talks with Channel 3 This Morning about his Primary win.

But Dickinson says Zuckerman will need to convince moderate voters that his progressive policies won’t cost the state. “it’s unclear to me whether the Democratic voting base has moved that far left yet,” he said.

Dickinson says Vermonters are traditionally reluctant to unseat incumbent governors. But Zuckerman told us he thinks higher voter turnout will help him win. Dickinson says he's not sure who will benefit but that both campaigns will need to adjust to mail-in-voting. "You have to be really flexible and really adept at using digital methods to reach out, and you've got to start early," he said.

The clock is ticking. The general election is November 3.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.