Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman Now the GOP Candidate

Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman 52-48% in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary.

First let me get the self-congratulation out of the way: I predicted this months ago. (OK, I may have been writing a fanciful piece that I thought would never come true - but still, there it is).

Second, it's now clear that Joe Lieberman is the de facto Republican candidate in this race. That's because Lieberman has no support in the Democratic establishment, and the Republicans have no candidate. Unless Lieberman changes his mind, a cooperative arrangement between Lieberman and the GOP is inevitable.

DSCC Chair Charlie Schumer and Minority Leader Harry Reid will both reportedly endorse Lamont this morning. Earlier, Schumer had suggested that the DSCC might support Lieberman if he ran as an Independent, but he clearly took too much flak from the Netroots. Barbara Boxer campaigned for Lieberman, but will endorse Lamont. Russ Feingold supported Lamont from the start, and Frank Lautenberg suggested that Lieberman should not run as an Independent if he lost the primary. Even Lieberman's home-state colleague Chris Dodd will side with Lamont. So it's clear that the Democratic establishment is not only not with Lieberman, it is with Lamont.

And the GOP? Alan Schlesinger is the nominal Republican nominee, but he has almost no campaign funds, and his campaign is currently DOA because of revelations that he gambled under a false name and ran up gambling debts at casinos, which he subsequently tried not to pay. And Schlesinger can count on getting no coverage from the media in a general election, as the Lamont-Lieberman storyline will be too good to pass up.

In a nominal three-way election, Schlesinger will be barely a blip on the radar; in fact polls show him with negligible support already. Lamont will take the liberal base - as he did yesterday - so Lieberman will have to find votes among Republicans and Independents. As a result, he will have to focus on attacking Lamont as an extremist, while trying to gather the center-right vote for himself. And if he is re-elected in 2006, he will need to start thinking about re-election in 2012, at which time he will face the same problem with the Democratic base.

There is always the chance that Lieberman decides not to run - in which case Ned Lamont will head to the Senate in a walk. But if Lieberman does run, it can ONLY be as a de facto Republican. He will either declare himself a Republican (which I think unlikely), or he will not commit to either the GOP or the Democratic Caucus if re-elected. I think that's the most likely route. We might even see Republican officials campaigning with him, and I suspect he will get significant funding from GOP figures.

If this interests you, be sure to check out the Hotline's summary of Lieberman's comments since his loss - note his attacks against liberal Democratic colleagues, his statement that he is in this to stay and (in conflict with my predictions), his statement that he will remain a Democrat. Read as well, Taegan Goddards summary of where Lieberman stands now.

Update: Karl Rove reaches out to Lieberman. Shocking!

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