VT-AL: Experience vs. Personality

The contest for progressive hero Bernie Sanders' old seat in Congress promises to be a hot one this year, and I would guess it will be closer than many contests in districts with much more even partisan indexes.

In fact, I would guess that best case, Democrat Peter Welch (current State Senate President Pro Tem) can hope to achieve a 55% victory over former VT National Guard leader Martha Rainville (R), but he will have to work hard for it. It is also possible that this will be one of the true nail-biters on Nov 7. It is even possible that Rainville could pull it off.

Why, in a state that rates the lowest approval in the nation of Bush and the current Republican crowd in Washington?

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VT-AL in Play?

I have been fairly skeptical towards claims tha the Republicans have a shot at picking up the House seat being vacated by Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. But a new survey released by GOP pollster Public Opinion Strategies has caused me to be slightly less optimistic than before. Jonathan E. Kaplan has the details in Tuesday's issue of The Hill.

Vermont state Sen. Peter Welch (D) barely leads Martha Rainville (R) in the race for the state's at-large congressional seat, according to a poll released late last week by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.

Welch leads Rainville 45-42 percent; the poll's margin of error is 4.6 percent. Republicans like their prospects in this race because Rainville, the former head of the National Guard, has high name recognition.

Even though the poll shows that 28 percent of voters are "definitely" voting for Rainville while 30 percent are "definitely" voting for Welch, she is narrowly leading Welch in some of Vermont's most Republican counties. In Burlington, she leads Welch 47-41 percent.

This is a Republican poll, so the results should be taken with at least a grain of salt. But according to the firm's website, it has polled in Vermont before -- in 2002, during the successful gubernatorial bid of Republican Jim Douglas -- so the numbers should not be dismissed out of hand.

There are a few factors that temper my newfound -- well, let's call it decrease in optimism. The first is that Vermont is a progressive state, one that does not like President Bush very much. In fact, according to the June polling from SurveyUSA, George W. Bush's approval rating in Vermont was lower than in any other state. The second is that the Senatorial contast up the ballot is not even close to competitive, with Sanders blowing Republican Ritchie Tarrant out of the water. The third is that the Iraq War is not popular around the country -- and especially unpopular in Vermont -- so Rainville's military qualifications may not only be a positive for her. The fourth is that, as of the latest filing period, Welch holds close to a 2.5:1 cash-on-hand advantage over Rainville.

At this point, I tend to agree with the rating ths race has garnered from the Cook Political Report (.pdf): "Leans Democrat." That said, we should keep an eye on this race through election day to make certain that it doesn't get away from us and make it that much more difficult to retake the House this fall.

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Vermont Bloggers BBQ with Photo

Last weekend, Vermont was host to the most important political happening since then Attorney General Pat Leahy wrote in support of skinny-dipping…

Yes, you guessed it folks: The First Annual Vermont Daily Briefing/Green Mountain Daily Political Barbeque and Hamburger Summit!

Organized by two of the leading Vermont bloggers, VDB’s Philip Baruth and GMD’s John Odum, the event brought together Vermont bloggers (yes, even the great Carpetbagger), activists and politicians, including most of the current Democratic contenders for statewide office: Scudder Parker, Peter Welch, Matt Dunne, and John Tracy.

Even Charity Tensel, Grande Dame of Vermont’s conservative blogosphere, and Brendan McKenna, the communications director for Martha Rainville, one of the Republican candidates seeking Bernie Sanders’ House seat, showed up to chat.

All these people together in one place, just months before the primaries and the election, and nary a reporter in sight. (Save, Shay Totten, Vermont’s independent media guru.)

Gotta love Vermont.

Read on for many links to photos and commentary...

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Why Media Matters

On May 12th, Media Matters sponsored a panel discussion called "Why Media Matters: The Role of the Media in the Democratic Process" which details the essentials of the differing perspectives of media critics and the members of the press who are on the receiving end of that criticism. Often a hot topic in netroots circles, to be sure.

Many of the arguments that I've heard from both sides were detailed and eloquently stated. And it provides a one-stop shopping spree for those of us like me who are obsessed with the discussion of -- as Greg Sargent puts it the tagline of his blog Horse's Mouth -- the reporting of politics and the politics of reporting. Or, as Brattlerouser and Jamison Foser would remind us: It's the media, you rather-less-than-super-sharp person.

Media Matters described the panel, moderated by Media Matters founder, David Brock this way...

  • Eric Boehlert is an award-winning journalist who has written  extensively about media, politics, and pop culture. His new book is Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush.

  • Kathy Kiely, Congressional reporter, USA Today

  • Lynn Sweet, Washington D.C. bureau chief, Chicago-Sun Times

  • Dick Polman, national political reporter, The Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Paul Waldman is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. His new book is Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.
  • Now, of course, Boehlert, Waldman and Brock represented the conventional wisdom of today's active progressive media watchdogs. Kathy Kiely and Lynn Sweet provided the media insiders perspective. But Dick Polman was there as the media insider who backed up the critics' claims.

    The two sides, thought not mutually exclusive, boil down to this...

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    Oh, Begala! (and Vermont blog lament)

    I saw the War Room this past year. And seeing the contrast between the youthful and sincere Paul Begala and George Stephanopoulos during the '92 election, and the establishment celebrity pundits they've become, is more than a little sad.

    Zack Exley, writing on Huffington Post yesterday (and cross-posted at Daily Kos and yes, widely discussed already), chastises Begala for his less than warm comments about Dean's DNC's 50 State Strategy.

    He writes, in part...

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