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Shumlin must do well in his governor's race to have the clout for single payer

(Details of the plan aside). VT Digger:

In 2012, Shumlin received 57 percent of the ballots cast.

[Eric Davis, a retired professor of political science from Middlebury College] speculates that [Republican Scott Milne] will get 38 percent to 42 percent of the vote, and Shumlin will land between 48 percent and 52 percent. Milne will have to fight off Shumlin and Dan Feliciano, the libertarian candidate, who will likely get 8 percent to 10 percent of ballots cast, depending on how much media coverage he gets in the next several months.

"I expect Shumlin to come in first," Davis said. "But Shumlin needs to work hard to get above 50. If he wants a mandate for single payer he needs half of the votes cast." He suggested that the Democratic field organizers are going to need to work hard to get independents who lean Democratic to turn out and get Shumlin's percentage above 50.

Dunno the VT scene well enough to know whether a retired Middlebury prof gets to set the rules of the expectations game. But it sounds plausible.

Davis says it's possible the Republican Governors Association could put $100,000 up to back Scott Milne's race and in order to force Shumlin, who is head of the Democratic Governors Association, to work harder in Vermont to defend his own and spend down his $1 million plus warchest. That strategy would also make it tougher for Shumlin to leave the state in order to campaign on behalf of Democratic governors in other states that the RGA is trying to defeat, he said.

Shumlin is trying to build a national reputation, Davis said, in anticipation of a potential U.S. Senate run when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., retires.

Key to those ambitions is the success of Shumlin's single payer initiative. The proposal to shift the payment mechanism from premiums to insurance companies to taxes imposed by state government is still perceived as a heavy lift this legislative session, even in the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature. The financing plan could "have a rough go of it" in the Legislature, Davis says, and unions could scrap over the benefit levels. It's possible, he says, that the governor and lawmakers will delay pulling the trigger on the initiative and that it won't go into effect in 2017, as promised.

So we'll see how that goes. It's rather unfortunate that a Governor's national ambitions could be enhanced by punting on single payer. And one wonders if that's why Gruber was brought in, at $400K, for political cover.

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