Allah notes that today's vote in the Senate on the Democrats' bill to surrender in Iraq could be the impetus for Joe Lieberman to switch to the Republican party. He says however:
He won’t flip. Coming from a state as blue as Connecticut, it’d make his prospects for reelection in 2012 exceedingly dim. Only if he’s approaching this issue the way McCain is, as something worth gambling his political future on, would he make a move like that. Also, what would switching parties achieve vis-a-vis Iraq? He already votes with the GOP on war measures so they’re not picking up any votes that way. It’s also my understanding that the committee chairmanships wouldn’t change. It’d be a purely symbolic gesture with far greater costs than benefits. Finally, if he bolts, the Dems might well be able to engineer a counterbolt among some anti-war GOP senator. Hagel and Gordon Smith from Oregon would be the obvious candidates.
I agree with part of this.
What I disagree with is the idea that caucusing with the Republicans would kill his re-election chances in Connecticut.
Consider Lieberman's choices:
- Remain a Democrat and run for re-election in 2012: Is it even conceivable that he'll be able to win the Democratic nomination in 2012, after running as an Independent in 2006, and then backing Bush on the war? It's more likely that the netroots support a more credible challenger in the primary - one who would win the nomination and be a strong contender in the general.
- Stay an Independent: Not a terrible option. The only problem would be if the Democrats or Republicans ran a 'real' candidate in 2012. Lieberman faced only second-tier opposition in 2006. If either party fielded a credible challenger - or if both did - Lieberman would have a harder time.
- Become a Republican: Lieberman would lock up Connecticut's small Republican vote and continue to do well among independent voters, at the cost of a relatively small swath of Democrats. After all, how many Democrats would he lose simply by changing party registration? Probably not many; most strong partisans are probably against him already anyway.