Mr. Rogers in a race car
"Come meet the governor!" a Republican state senator announced as he threw open the door of a sandwich shop in downtown Rutland for Scott, the state's race-car-driver-turned-chief executive.
Scott raced snowmobiles and worked on cars before becoming one of the all-time winningest stock car drivers in Vermont (he even won a race while in office).
But as he wandered Rutland's main drag with just a few aides and zero fanfare, it's easy to see why Scott's brand is more Mr. Rogers than Dale "The Intimidator" Earnhardt.
He's seen as a sensible man in the surreal world of Vermont politics, where his other potential opponents this year included a 14-year-old and several candidates to the left of Hallquist who are running on single-payer health care. The pony-tailed lieutenant governor can be found at the Burlington Farmers Market selling veggies from his organic farm.
"Sometimes, we can point out the rocks when the majority is sailing the ship," said Butch Shaw, a Republican state representative on why many Vermonters like to have a check on the liberal Legislature.
The state has a history of electing moderate governors from both parties. Vermonters, as everyone here will tell you, tend to vote for whom they know and like personally, and everyone seems to know and like Scott. It's a tiny state with less than half the population of neighboring New Hampshire and anyone can drop by the governor's weekly open door coffees.
So what about Trump?
Mary Zullo, who at 86 still runs her Rutland sandwich shop, tends to vote Republican and was thrilled to see Scott walk in. But she also says "I love Bernie." Why? Because the future senator once patronized her store nearly every day one summer some 20 years ago.
"I like Trump all right, but if he would just shut his mouth, you know?" she continued, unprompted. "Because we bring up our children to not be bullies and to not swear and I'm telling you, he just drives me nuts."
Scott, who sat next to Mitt Romney at John McCain's funeral, didn't vote for Trump and says he's unlikely to in 2020. "I like leaders who unite," he said.
"The Vermont brand of Republican is very different from the national brand," said Janssen Willhoit, a former convict who became a public defender and is now the GOP nominee for attorney general.
It's a familiar script to the one employed by other blue-state Republican governors, including Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Larry Hogan in Maryland, who is on a campaign swing with Democrats who support him.
"In a counterintuitive way, the polarized national environment accentuates the very things that make these figures appealing," said Liam Donovan, a Republican consultant. "Moderate sensibility focused on local policy issues rather than political wedges, capacity (indeed, necessity) to work in a bipartisan way, and a tone that resonates regardless of party."