Primary Source: Vt. Democratic Activist Predicts Biden Will Be Nominee in 2020

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Remember Ken Dean, the Montpelier Democrat who predicted in May 2016 that Republican Donald Trump could win the presidency by tapping into anger over NAFTA and sweeping the Rust Belt states that, in fact, proved decisive?

Dean also was predicting Trump would win in early October 2016, even as Hillary Clinton did well in debates. He’s back with a new prediction about the 2020 presidential election — Dean thinks former Vice President Joe Biden will be the likely Democratic nominee, even if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a slew of younger Democrats seek the White House.

Dean — who is close to Jerry Brown and Gary Hart and has been active in grassroots presidential politics since 1972 — said Biden has the charisma to connect with voters and also will draw on Barack Obama’s political network and donors.

And, Dean predicts, just as Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in 1976 against a large field of more liberal opponents, Biden is likely to scoop up superdelegates and win a plurality of votes in primary contests as Sanders and other candidates split the progressive vote.

“It comes down to math sometimes — how the pie is cut,” Dean said via email. “Biden in 2020 is a moderate liberal establishment candidate and his plurality will be greater than the newcomers — and the Bernie vote.” A big caveat, of course, is that 2020 is still years away, and Biden will turn 78 in November of that year.

Hospital Merger Mania

Consolidation appears to be the name of the game in health care these days. And it’s much bigger than community hospitals like Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon and Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor joining the Dartmouth-Hitchcock system.

We’re talking big mergers, such as Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health last month teaming up to create a system with 139 hospitals and 700 care sites across 28 states.

And in Rhode Island last week, Brown University said it was joining with California-based Prospect Medical Holdings in a bid for Care New England Health System, which includes several Rhode Island hospitals that Boston-based Partners HealthCare already is in talks to acquire.

When asked about the merger mania during a meeting with Valley News editors and reporters on Tuesday, Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO Joanne Conroy made clear she is focused on employee morale and retention, and that getting “stronger as an organization, getting financial and operational stability really kind of established, is one of our core mantras.”

And while she acknowledged that some people have said there may be only 20 health systems in the country when the dust settles, Conroy said the geography of northern New England may help insulate Dartmouth-Hitchcock, to a degree.

“When I look at where patients look for their care, north of Nashua, most people look locally or look north. They don’t look south. We have the Green Mountains, we have got the White Mountains, we have a lot of the Maine wilderness — that kind of gives us a geography that may be less attractive to people who may feel they need to come in and acquire us,” Conroy said.

She also noted that D-H is a community-benefit corporation, and a not-for-profit, so not subject to a hostile takeover. But she also didn’t rule out a merger down the road.

“As we are doing our strategic planning, we are kind of trying to look at all the disrupters and do scenario planning. We are trying to look at both technology and care disrupters, trying to look at the competitive market,” Conroy said. “So we are looking at everything, but it is more just to be prepared, rather than making active plans.”

Briefly Noted

Timothy O’Connor, a Brattleboro Democrat who became speaker of the Vermont House in 1975 even as Republicans controlled the Legislature, died on Tuesday at 81. “Speaker O’Connor will be remembered for his impartiality and fairness during his time as speaker, and the kindness and respect he carried with him throughout his life,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement. “Speaker O’Connor had the reputation of a true public servant — a reputation he earned through his unique ability to achieve consensus and compromise.”

Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon will be working from home over the next month following successful hip replacement surgery on Tuesday at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital. “The surgery went very well. Phil is happy to be home, where he is recovering,” a Dartmouth spokeswoman said via email.

Orange County residents can talk about Vermont’s energy future with lawmakers at a forum on Monday at the Chelsea School library. Attendees include state Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Williamstown, and Reps. Bob Frenier, R-Chelsea, and Rodney Graham, R-Williamstown. The 7 p.m. event is sponsored by town energy committees in Orange County.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.