Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vermont Governor Race

Race of the Day

Vermont Governor

October 10, 2010
23 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Tossup (R)

The Green Mountain State has some quirks in how it elects its Governors. For one thing, the elections are held every two years, with the state joining neighboring New Hampshire in having that frequency. Also, a candidate must receive a majority of the actual vote in order to be elected outright. If they do not, the contest is theoretically supposed to go to the State Legislature to decide. However, candidates in the past have agreed to abide by the result of the popular vote. This year, the Progressive Party will not be on the ballot and the other remaining cast of characters in the race are relatively minor, so the major party winner will stand a pretty good chance of winning on Election Night.

That is not to say though that the race may not be very close. Democrats were given a gift of sorts when popular Republican Governor Jim Douglas decided that four two-year terms were enough and decided to not seek reelection or any other office in the state. As Vermont is considered one of the most liberal bastions in the country, that greatly increased the chances of a pickup for the Democrats. The Republicans still had a strong candidate waiting in the wings though in Brian Dubie, who was elected Lt. Governor the same day as Douglas in a separate election, and has also won subsequent reelection every two years. While Dubie has the experience of having won statewide, others have made note that Dubie is considered more conservative than Douglas and might have a harder time winning the top post in such a left-leaning state.

The Democrat field to succeed Douglas was quite large. In the August primary, the top four contenders all finished within four percent of each other. The unlucky third place finisher, who finished less than one percent behind the eventual winner was Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, who many considered to be the strongest potential Democrat nominee. The top two candidates were separated by less than 200 votes statewide and it took nearly three weeks for a recount to confirm that State Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin finished ahead of Doug Racine, a fellow State Senator, who as Lt. Governor himself, lost to Douglas as his party's nominee the last time the Governorship was an open contest. The party quickly united behind Shumlin as its nominee.

There has not been much polling on this race to date, and thus it is difficult for me, as an outsider to get a really good feel for the contest. Early in the summer, a Rasmussen Reports poll put Dubie ahead of all potential opponents, signifying that the Republicans might be in very good shape to keep the office. His lead over Shumlin at that time was 55-36. The selection of Shumlin, the closeness of the primary, and the time it took to make a winner official would have seemed to benefit Dubie, but in a mid September poll, Rasmussen showed him trailing Shumlin by a 49-46 margin.

It is hard to tell if the Democrat identification lead in Vermont will just be too much for Dubie to overcome, or if that one day September poll was just an anomaly. I really do not know what to do except to call the race a Tossup at this point barring any other data. If I have to guess, I will say though that Dubie's statewide political victory streak will extend, and that very easy wins for Democrats in the state for U.S. Senate, the state's at large Congressional district, and most statewide constitutional offices, will bring about enough ticket splitters to make Dubie Vermont's next GOP Governor.

Dubie (he has at least one brother) campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D, 27 R, 1 I
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 33 R, 1 I