The Pulse of Vermont: governor’s and U.S. House races

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(Host) According to a new VPR poll, Democrat Doug Racine holds a slight lead over Republican Jim Douglas in the race for governor. In Part 1 of this week’s series “The Pulse of Vermont,” VPR’s Bob Kinzel also reports on the results of the U.S. House contest.

(Kinzel) The poll shows that there’s been very little movement in the governor’s race over a period of several months.

If the election were held today, Racine would get 34% of the vote, Douglas would have 28%, independent candidate Con Hogan would receive 6%, Progressive candidate Michael Badamo has 2% and 29% of those people polled are undecided.

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis is surprised by the high number of undecided voters, with just seven weeks left before the general election. Davis also thinks that the campaign of Republican Jim Douglas will be disappointed by the poll results:

(Davis) “Douglas spent several hundred thousand dollars on television advertising in the late spring and early summer and his numbers haven’t moved very much. So he’s going to have to raise a lot of money between now and November to start increasing his percentage from 28% to something closer to 50%. Doug Racine hasn’t spent all that much money so he still has a lot of money in reserve for his television campaign, which hasn’t really begun yet.”

(Kinzel) Davis says it’s clear that the campaign of Con Hogan, who has 6% of the vote, hasn’t caught fire with Vermont voters. But Davis thinks Hogan has an opportunity to attract more support:

(Davis) “His hope is that as joint appearances and debates involving Douglas Racine and himself start to be broadcast on television over the next few weeks, he would have to hope that people watching those debates would see him and would begin talking about him to their friends and perhaps get his numbers up out of that single-digit range. If Con Hogan is not in the mid-teens say by mid-October, I think one could conclude that his campaign really isn’t going to have much of an effect on the outcome this year.”

(Kinzel) The poll was conducted by Action Research. Company spokesperson Sheryl Eaton says the results also show that some Progressive voters are supporting Democrat Doug Racine and not Michael Badamo, who is the Party’s nominee for governor:

(Eaton) “He really isn’t holding all of his Progressives: 33% are currently backing him and the rest of them – 25% are undecided [and] could really go in any direction. And then 33% are being pulled by Doug Racine and that’s what I thought was really interesting in that race.

(Kinzel) The results also show a gender gap in the governor’s race. Among men, Douglas leads Racine 36% to 31%. But Racine has more support with female voters; he wins this vote by 37% to 23%.

In the race for the U.S. House, the results show that Independent incumbent Bernie Sanders has a commanding lead over Republican Bill Meub. There is no Democratic candidate in the race. Sanders receives 63% of the vote; Meub has 21% and Progressive candidate Jane Newton has 1%.

Eric Davis thought Bill Meub would have gotten more of a bounce in the polls following his victory in last week’s primary:

(Davis) “But it’s clear from these numbers that people are satisfied with Bernie Sanders’ performance in the House. Bill Meub is going to try and portray Sanders as someone who is too far to the political extreme to be an effective representative of Vermont. But based on the numbers in this poll, Meub has his work cut out from him. And if national Republicans start seeing numbers like this, they’re not going to send much money Bill Meub’s way. They’ll send it to the campaigns of candidates who have a chance of winning.”

(Kinzel) To underscore Meub’s difficulties, the poll shows that 34% of Republicans would vote for Sanders in the general election.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

(Host) The VPR poll was conducted September 12-15, 2002. 638 Vermonters participated in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5%. Wednesday in our report on the new poll, we’ll look at the race for lieutenant governor. Read more about VPR’s poll results online.

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