Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lieberman cruising to victory?

Perhaps that's putting it too strongly, but right now it does look likely that Joe Lieberman will win re-election as Senator in the end, running as an independent. On balance, I think this would be a good thing.

I have my own reservations about Lieberman, mostly because he has often been too much in the pocket of big business. And I think to some extent he has himself to blame for his humiliating loss of the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont--not because he supported the 2003 Iraq war, which was correct, but because he's been an excessively uncritical cheerleader for the Bush administration, which has made a spectacular mess of things in Iraq and everywhere else. But for him to be knocked out by a candidate who favors simply abandoning Iraq to catastrophe--a position that I happen to believe is politically irresponsible and morally indefensible--would be another matter.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether this whole experience will lead Lieberman to take a more critical tone toward the Bush administration or whether it will push him closer to the Republicans since he needs Republican voters to get re-elected. At all events, the November election is still three months away, so at this point all this is a matter of tentative speculation.

On the other hand, Joseph Britt (guest-blogging on Eric Umansky's weblog) is more willing to make a flat prediction: "Lamont is Toast". Maybe, maybe not. I guess we'll see.

=> Britt also makes a larger point that perhaps should be obvious but is rarely heard. The Connecticut race has generally been discussed in terms of the Democrats' internal divisions and other problems. But it also highlights the pathetic shape that the Republicans seem to be in as the November elections loom--at least in Connecticut, and probably elsewhere as well.
Second, under ordinary circumstances a split in the Democratic Party, with two candidates running for in the general election, would represent a golden opportunity for the Republicans to pick up a Senate seat; a 51-48 split, which is what last week's primary produced, ought to be platinum.
And third, that either gold or platinum turn alike to dross when the White House and GOP Senatorial Committee together can't recruit any better Republican candidate than a nondescript state legislator with a gambling problem, now sitting at 4% in a leading state poll.
--Jeff Weintraub

[Update 10/5/2006: It appears that Britt may not have been exaggerating after all. A Reuters/Zogby poll shows Lieberman leading Lamont by an astounding 20%--53% to 33%. The Republican candidate seems to have pretty much disappeared from sight.]
====================
Joseph Britt (guest-posting on the weblog of Eric Umansky)
August 20, 2006
Lamont Is Toast

Talk about your anticlimax:
Ned Lamont, whose anti-war campaign rattled the political landscape with a victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary, is gaining voter support — but Lieberman still leads the race by double digits, a poll released Thursday shows...
Now, the latest poll shows Lieberman at 49 percent, Lamont at 38 percent and Schlesinger at 4 percent.
But Poll Director Douglas Schwartz stresses that those numbers only scratch the surface of how voters really feel about this race.
One potentially troublesome indicator for Lamont lies in voters' opinions of the candidates: Only 23 percent in the new survey had a favorable opinion of Lamont, while 28 percent had an unfavorable opinion and the rest were mixed. Meanwhile, 43 percent viewed Lieberman favorably and 28 percent viewed him unfavorably, with the rest mixed.
"Lamont needs to be concerned because he has actually negative favorability right now statewide," said Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz. "He's popular among Democrats, but he's not doing well among Republicans and independents."
"There is still time for Lamont to make this up," he said. "Lamont has to figure out a way to peel some of those soft supporters away from Lieberman."
Soft supporters, eh? Another way to put this is that Lamont needs to peel some of the Republicans and people who vote for candidates with familiar names away from the guy who has been Connecticut's Senator for the last eighteen years. Good luck.

The bottom line isn't complicated: Ned Lamont could win a three-man race. In a two-man race without a viable Republican candidate and with the White House nudging GOP voters toward Lieberman, his chances of getting elected are not much better than mine. And I live in Wisconsin.

For the White House this is great news, because Joe Lieberman has been very good about not saying mean things about the President or the war in Iraq. My own observations are, first, that on just about everything except those two doubtless crucial issues Lieberman has been a fairly conventional liberal Democrat (for which reason, incidentally, reported talk about Lieberman suffering some kind of reprisal from Senate Democrats should he win reelection is probably just that -- talk). Second, under ordinary circumstances a split in the Democratic Party, with two candidates running for in the general election, would represent a golden opportunity for the Republicans to pick up a Senate seat; a 51-48 split, which is what last week's primary produced, ought to be platinum.

And third, that either gold or platinum turn alike to dross when the White House and GOP Senatorial Committee together can't recruit any better Republican candidate than a nondescript state legislator with a gambling problem, now sitting at 4% in a leading state poll. In a year when any one race could end up determining partisan control of the Senate, I'd call that a major failing. It appears as if, when Lieberman finally wins, the White House will spin it instead as a major victory. As President Bush might say, what we have here is a difference...in...perspective.

August 20, 2006 at 01:06 AM |

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