Friday, 20 October 2006

Lieberman (I - CT....or maybe D - CT or even R - CT)

Ken Berwitz

If you believe the political polling in Connecticut, Joe Lieberman is cruising to victory.  The latest Quinnipiac poll, out today, shows Lieberman with a 17% lead over Ned Lamont and Republican Arthur Schlesinger somewhere in Pittsburgh stuck in a snow drift, but hoping to make Hartford by November 8.  This lead is up from 10% in the same poll three weeks ago.  Importantly, all interviewing was conducted after the televised senate debate.

Assuming these data are anywhere near accurate, it would take a major miracle for Lamont to become competitive.  Realistically, the only way would be for him to morph into a more centrist candidate (that's where Lieberman has the vote margin).  The bad news, though, is that a) it makes him Lieberman lite - not a good place to be - and b) it would absolutely alienate the hardliners who comprise his core base, so he'd lose anyway.

So what do we make of this?   Here are a few random thoughts:

-Far and away the most significant issue here is the possibility that Democrats could win 6 senate seats and Lieberman wins in Connecticut.  This would literally put Lieberman in charge of which party runs the senate for the next two years, because whichever party he aligns with is the one with the majority. 

Do the math:  Republicans currently have 55 senate seats to 45 for Democrats (I'm counting Jumpin' Jim Jeffords as a Democrat because that's who he aligns with).  If 6 seats change to Democrat, they have a total of 51 and are running the show.  But if Lieberman wins, they have just 50.  If he aligns with Democrats they still have that 51 majority.  But if he aligns (gasp!) with Republicans, there is a tie, Vice President Cheney, as president of the senate, becomes the tie-breaker and Republicans stay in charge.   Wow.

-Now, remember all those Democrats who were furious at Lieberman for staying in this race?  Who verbally trashed him and were outraged, disgusted, etc. etc. yada yada yada?  I suggest that you watch them closely.  Because unless politics got a major cleansing this election cycle (and I assure you it didn't), these same people are about to become far more chummy with joltin' Joe real quick. 

In 1939 FDR, talking about Nicaraguas dictator Anastasio Somoza, said "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch".  Trust me, this philosophy is about to be played out in all its glory by the Democratic Party.

-On the debate itself, I think Lieberman won going away.  How did he do it?  In no small part because since Lamont and Schlesinger had an identical goal - to knock down a guy who was leading them by a country mile - they wound up sounding exactly the same.  I don't mean they had the same views, I mean they were both exaggeratedly strident in their presentations, trying anything to get the spotlight on them and away from Lieberman. 

At one truly pathetic point in the debate, Lamont - who needs a stronger Republican candidate to wrest votes from Lieberman, actually complimented Schlesinger, commending him on his passionate, aggressive style.  I wonder how that made the Lamont base feel. 

Lieberman may be understated and unexciting.  But he has spent 18 years genuinely caring about Connecticut voters.  They apparently have noticed and are preferring him to Lamont in droves.  Or, put another way, just because you're from the Nutmeg state doesn't mean you vote for a nut.


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