Saturday, October 06, 2018

Vermont U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

31 Days Until Election Day

Vermont U.S. Senate

Status: Independent (Democrat) Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (East)

Outlook: Safe Democrat

There are several "only in Vermont" components to this contest, although the end result is not in doubt. For one thing, a group of independent or third party candidates, most of whom are on the left, are running, because the incumbent, an incumbent "Democratic Socialist" who runs as an Independent is not left-wing enough for them.

Bernie Sanders is now a political celebrity, but for a long time he was a gadfly, whom as an Independent lost many statewide contests in Vermont in the '70s and 80's. He was however elected as Mayor of Burlington. In 1990, he finally won a statewide victory, and was off to the U.S. House to represent the state he moved to from New York City in 1968, when he was in his mid 20s. During this time in the House, Sanders both looked different than his colleagues, and was often an iconoclastic vote, representing his liberal views. While he caucuses with the Democrats, he was elected as an Independent. During his first few terms, Democrats put up candidates in the general election to oppose him, but then stopped doing so as Sanders gained more staying power.

An open U.S. Senate seat in 2006 saw this arrangement go to an even higher level. Some had concerns that Sanders could be seen as Senate material, but he had no trouble winning the general election against a Republican, and an even easier time being reelected. In the 2016 cycle, he launched what many at first thought was a vanity Presidential campaign in the Democrat primaries. In his mid 70s by now though, he galvanized large numbers of liberal activists (most of them white) and raised tremendous amounts of money, mostly in smaller dollar amounts. He quickly became the chief obstacle to the expected party coronation of Hillary Clinton. After losing in Iowa by a hare, he easily won New Hampshire, and then surprised many by continuing to beat Clinton in a series of contests. She had all the advantages though (and many unfair ones according to some as well), including superdelegates, and while she captured the nomination, Sanders backers are the convention were not shy in saying the party picked the wrong person.

In some ways, the anti-establishment populist appeal of Sanders mirrored that of Trump in the Republican primaries, although on most issues, the two would never be able to come to an agreement. Still, enough disaffected Sanders primary voters ,either stayed home in November or actually voted for Trump to easily make up the deciding margins in swing states that delivered the White House to Trump. At the same time, Democrats now continue to move to the left and have initiated reforms, such as lessening the influence of superdelegates, which harmed Sanders in the last cycle and may benefit him or someone like him in 2020. The concept of running in a general election against Bernie Sanders nationally is something that Donald Trump and his backers in the GOP would seemingly take in a minute.

Will Sanders run again for President as a Democrat in 2020 as he approaches his 79th birthday? He definitely has among the highest name recognition in the party and large impassioned support. Many Democrats have run in this year's midterms, explicitly as "Berniecrats" who said they were inspired to enter politics by his Presidential run. Sanders has been selective on whom he has chosen to endorse. Some candidates he have wound up losing primaries, while others have won in high-profile ways. One side-note is that Sanders' son ran for Congress in New Hampshire, explicitly without his father's support, as the senior Sanders said he did not believe in political family dynasties, and  came well short in a place where his father had done extremely well.

Of course, the Senator from Vermont is up for reelection this year and is seeking a third term. There is hardly any drama about the outcome. He once again has resisted entreaties to officially become a Democrat and is running as an Independent. The major party nonetheless has selected him as their choice in the August primary with 91 percent of the vote, and per tradition, Sanders formally declined the nomination. It is somewhat fascinating to note that perhaps the most popular elected official in America today among Democrats refuses to embrace the label Democrat.

The Republican contest was even weirder. Twenty-nine percent of voters, the highest group, filed blank ballots. The second place "winner" with 27 percent was gadfly businessman and frequent candidate Brooke Paige. Under Vermont's quirky laws though, Paige also won the Republican nomination for five other statewide offices. He chose to withdraw from all of them except Secretary of State. The state party would now have to pick a new nominee for Senate. The field, which also included a candidate running for the Senate in several states he did not live, had Lawrence Zupan, a real estate broker as its closest finisher, at just a point below Paige. Attorney Jasdeep Pannu had won 12 percent, but Zupan, whom like Sanders and many others in the state, was a New York City transplant, seemed to be the obvious choice. After all, Sanders has beaten reasonably credible Republicans with higher profiles in Vermont before.

Truth be told, Zupan will probably get more votes against Sanders than Paige would have but the race will be a blowout. Even many non-Democrats in Vermont have found appeal in Sanders, who used to be more conservative, representative of his rural state, on an issue like gun control. Most Vermonters will also probably say they want Bernie to run for President again. Comedian Larry David certainly would concur.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
20 D (10 Safe, 5 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup)
10 R (3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans, 5 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
43 D (23 holdovers, 10 Safe, 5 Likely, 2 Leans, 3 Tossup)
52 R (42 holdovers, 3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans, 5 Tossup)


At 8:56 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

He needs to retire in 2024.


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