Thursday, July 13, 2006

Chafee, Lieberman - A Study in Contrasts

Conservatives are angry that the National Republican Senate Committee has been so aggressive in supporting Lincoln Chafee in the Rhode Island Senate primary against challenger Steve Laffey, that they have even filed an FEC complaint against the Laffey campaign. What has the DSCC done in another closely-watched race: Lieberman vs. Lamont?

First off, Roll Call (subscription required) buries the lede in today's story about the Lieberman-Lamont race. The story they tell is about how Democratic officials and liberal interest groups who have endorsed Lieberman will have a tough decision to make if he loses the primary:

Lieberman’s Peril Poses Dilemma
July 13, 2006
By Nicole Duran,
Roll Call Staff

Now that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has his “insurance policy” of seeking re-election as an Independent should he fail to secure the Democratic nomination next month, he has put it in a drawer and is focusing on shoring up his base and winning the primary.
“My entire world is focused on winning Aug. 8,” said Sean Smith, Lieberman’s campaign manager.

But the possibility that he may bolt the party to save his political career puts many of his supporters in an awkward position.

Even more than Lieberman’s Senate colleagues, Democratic-leaning interest groups aligned with the former vice presidential nominee might occupy the toughest spot come Aug. 9 if he loses the primary to cable TV executive Ned Lamont.

Most traditional Democratic allies, including labor, environmental and women’s groups, preferred to let their current endorsements of Lieberman — many granted before he raised the specter of an independent bid — stand, leaving the question about “what if he loses the primary?” until Aug. 9.

All very interesting. And come August 9, it might even matter But here's the lede:

One group that has been surprisingly quiet about its support for Lieberman is the DSCC.

The organization, which focuses first and foremost on retaining incumbents, is backing Lieberman for now.

DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has avoided saying what his committee would do should Lieberman lose the primary.

Still, the committee has yet to launch an independent campaign on his behalf and otherwise seems to be flying under the radar in its efforts to re-elect him.

Spokesman Phil Singer would not discuss whether the DSCC has plans to do something overt, such as take out ads for Lieberman, before the primary.

That stands in marked contrast to what the National Republican Senatorial Committee has done to prop up Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who faces a stiff primary challenge from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey.

The NRSC has paraded GOP leaders to the Ocean State to raise money and shore up Chafee among the party faithful. It began running ads on his behalf last October and recently took the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Laffey.

Of course, the NRSC is trying to retain control of the chamber and believes that Laffey has no shot of winning in November.

By contrast, both Lieberman, who said he would caucus with the Democrats should he win re-election as an independent, and Lamont would be favored over Schlesinger, a former state legislator. Furthermore, Lamont did not enter the race until March. Laffey threw his hat into the ring last fall.

Lieberman also has a tremendous cash-on-hand advantage over Lamont, though Lamont has already spent more than $2 million from his own pocket and has the ability to funnel millions more into his effort.

One official from an interest group backing Lieberman who did not want to be named said the DSCC’s apparent public hands-off stance is not surprising.

“If I’m the DSCC, incumbents are expected to raise their own money to survive a primary,” especially ones as entrenched as Lieberman, the source said. “You don’t want to be the one saying ‘we gotta help this incumbent’ when that $2 million could go into Cleveland or Montana — there’s better ways to spend that money.”

...According to the most recent campaign fiance reports, the DSCC has done more financially to shore up veteran Sen. Daniel Akaka in Democratic-heavy Hawaii in his primary fight with Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) than it has to help Lieberman.

The Lieberman campaign says it is happy with the level of support it has received from interest groups, the DSCC and individual Senators.

The DSCC contributed $30,000 to Daniel Akaka's campaign from September 2005 to April 2006 - a small amount, but still more than Lieberman got ($62.00). That Senate seat is in even less danger than the one in Connecticut. So why isn't Charlie Schumer ponying up for Joe Lieberman?

OK - money has to go to priority races, and Montana does look like a better investment than Connecticut. But Lieberman is in the race of his life. Surely DSCC spokesman Phil Singer can say something like 'we have nothing against Ned Lamont, but this campaign committee backs Joe Lieberman to the hilt, and we're confident that he's going to win. We're going to give him all the help he needs,' or some other equally-reassuring phrase?

Is Joe Lieberman really sure that he wants to caucus with the Democrats if he is re-elected as an Independent?

Back to the top.


Philo-Junius said...
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Philo-Junius said...

The old rule of constituent service is that first constituent service is to get reelected to preserve seniority. The Democrats of Connecticut would seem to prefer a pure freshman rather than a veteran who can look after Pratt and Electric Boat.