Senator Patrick Leahy Still Ahead in the Polls | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Senator Patrick Leahy Still Ahead in the Polls 

Despite a clever ad critiquing the national debt that gained him some national attention, Republican Len Britton is making little headway against incumbent Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, according to the results of a new poll.

Today, Rasmussen Reports released the results of its recent Vermont poll and found Leahy leading Britton by a comfortable 64-29 margin. In March, a similar poll found Leahy leading a "generic Republican" by a 58-33 margin.

In the new poll, 3 percent of respondents prefer another candidate, and 4 percent are undecided.

The poll did not take into account that Leahy has a Democratic challenger in the primary — Dan Freilich. Freilich has also filed papers to run as an independent in the fall should he prove unsuccessful in defeating Leahy in the August 24 primary.

"Britton, a businessman and political newcomer, is the only declared GOP Senate candidate thus far.  He faces an incumbent who carried over 70 [percent] of the vote in his last two bids for reelection," notes Rasmussen in its poll results.

The pollster also noted that Leahy leads among voters "not affiliated with either major party" by a better than two-to-one margin.

As with yesterday's poll regarding the various gubernatorial candidates, Rasmussen asked a series of sub-questions about national issues like immigration, health care reform and offshore drilling.

No surprise that Britton picks up a lion's share of the folks who want to overturn the federal health care reform law, enact an Arizona-esque immigration law in Vermont, or who are part of the "Tea Party" movement.

Britton earns support from 75 percent of folks who consider themselves members of Vermont's Tea Party movement, while Leahy picks up 74 percent of the nonmember vote. As noted in yesterday's poll, only 11 percent of those polled consider themselves a member of the Tea Party, down from 12 percent in March.

Of the 41 percent of voters who "strongly favor" repeal of the health care law, 75 percent support Britton. Of the 52 percent of people who oppose the law's repeal, 92 percent favor Leahy.

Finally, of the 35 percent of Vermonters who favor an Arizona-style immigration law in Vermont, 61 percent back Britton, while of the 55 percent who oppose such a law, 94 percent support Leahy.

In all three instances — Tea Party membership, immigration law and health care repeal — Vermonters' responses fall below the national averages.

Despite opposing the Arizona law, the poll found, 48 percent of all Vermont voters support the chief requirement of the Arizona law, that local police check the immigration status of anyone they stop for a traffic or other kind of violation if they suspect the person is an illegal immigrant. However, 39 percent oppose such a requirement. These findings are much lower than support for the requirement nationally, Rasmussen notes.

When it comes to favorable ratings, Leahy isn't suffering from the anti-incumbency mood seen in other parts of the country. Of those polled, 52 percent have a "very favorable" view of the six-term incumbent, while 16 percent view him "very unfavorably." Only 2 percent of those polled have no opinion of Leahy.

By contrast, Britton is viewed "very favorably" by 6 percent of those polled and "very unfavorably" by 11 percent. However, 43 percent of those polled didn't know him well enough to offer any opinion.

Money and name recognition are usually the two biggest challenges anyone faces when taking on a popular incumbent.

As I noted in last week's "Fair Game," Britton has received some national attention for his clever ad critiquing the national debt, and pointing to Leahy's role in exacerbating the amount of money we all owe. That said, Britton's campaign sported a deficit of its own in its April campaign finance filing.

Britton's ad — "Better Get a Paper Route, Billy" —  aims to give the candidate both name recognition and pull in donors.

The ad is a spoof of the old Publishers Clearing House shtik in which an unsuspecting winner receives an oversized, multimillion-dollar check. In Britton’s ad, a group of dark-suited men holding balloons pull up to a house inhabited by a family expecting a big check. It turns out be an invoice for $168,000 — one person’s share of the national debt.

“That’s a lot of money, mister,” says a boy.

“Better get a paper route, Billy,” responds a dark-suited G-Man.

The ad is running on WCAX-TV, but it has received more than 30,000 views on YouTube. A former Hollywood screenwriter, Britton wrote the ad himself.

He later comes on screen and blames Leahy and his ilk in D.C. for “creating deficits we may never be able to repay."

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.


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