I haven't posted much on this hot topic, even though I live in CT. I'm not involved in either campaign. I watch with interest as friends and strangers have started to supply me with Lamont material (I've heard nothing from Joe), and I've been struck with the unavoidable conclusion that Joe is going to lose. This isn't merely wishful thinking (he's not my biggest target and I'm not out to get him). It's based on discussion with people in both camps (though no one especially high up) and following the local news.
A prominent ally of U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman urged Monday that Lieberman run for re-election as an independent and not trust his career to left-leaning Democratic primary voters in August.
John F. Droney Jr., a former Democratic state chairman who helped Lieberman unseat Republican Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1988, said Lieberman should make his case for re-election to all voters in November.
"I think to be terrorized through the summer by an extremely small group of the Democratic Party, much less the voting population, is total insanity for a person who is a three-term senator," Droney said.
When you're not just running against, but running away from, your own base, you're in deep trouble. Lamont's ads have been, as expected, excellent (fresh and innovative, showing ordinary citizens pasting Lamont stickers over Leiberman stickers, replacing Joe signs with Ned signs) and Joe's have been awful. His first was a smarmy "look in the camera and drip sincerity" acknowledgement that Iraq was the 800 pound gorilla, but we should put that aside and vote for him anyway. When his poll numbers started to go South, the next brilliant idea was to attack Lamont as being a Republican. All that did is inspire Lamont's people to pull up pics of Joe and Bush, cheek-to-cheek, which is why Lamont is doing as well as he is. Joe remains popular enough in CT, but no one likes Bush.
I gather the next brainstorm will be to try and paint Lamont as a tool of Lowell Weicker. Of course, Weicker is an indie and his wife is a Democrat, and not everyone knows who Weicker is, so that one will likely work as well as the others. This campaign seems as tone-deaf as Joe himself.
Droney's suggestion was not welcomed by the Lieberman campaign. The senator's staff has been trying to discourage speculation that Lieberman, who is more popular with Republicans and unaffiliated voters than Democrats, might run as an independent.
Lieberman's campaign manager, Sean Smith, and Nancy DiNardo, the Democratic state chairwoman, immediately distanced themselves from the suggestion by Droney, who has played no major role in Lieberman's 2006 campaign.
"I believe that Joe Lieberman will win this primary. He has been a good Democrat, and I believe he will remain a Democrat," DiNardo said.
IIf Joementum goes indie, he does it by losing the primary on Aug 8 and filing 7500 citizen names on a petition by Aug 9. The only way that happens is:
- he collects names now as a Dem
- he drops out early (see what happens after the AFL-CIO convention June 26-7 in New Haven)
Either way, he kicks Democrats in the teeth and then asks for a date.
The Lamont campaign is underscoring that message in a new radio commercial challenging Lieberman to pledge he will support the winner of the Democratic primary.
"I may be the underdog in this race, but I won't roll over every time the Bush-Cheney administration demands it," Lamont says in the ad. "So I have a challenge for our junior senator. Joe, let's both go to the Democratic primary on Aug. 8, and let the people of Connecticut decide."
Smith said Lieberman would not promise to support Lamont, because the businessman voted frequently with Republicans as a local official in Greenwich.
"The only public record this guy has, he voted time and again like a Republican," Smith said. "Why would we support that?"
So now Joe is asking Democrats not to support Democrats? It's bad enough that's what Joe does. And he's accusing Ned of supporting Republicans? That's why Joe's in this mess in the first place.
One of these campaigns doesn't get it. Which one do we think it is? And who thinks that campaigning as an indie supporting the war but dissing Dems is going to get Joe votes? Or will he depend on personal charisma? Note also that the small towns went Lamont whereas the big city machines went Joe. If he doesn't run as a Dem he loses that support, which is beginning to look shaky in any case.
This is shaping up as the most interesting thing to happen in CT politics in years.
"Joe Lieberman has a 15- to 25-point lead over Ned Lamont with eight weeks to go," [campaing manager Sean] Smith said. "We're going to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate."
He's still the favorite, but his numbers are sinking fast. And if he flat out runs against Democrats, you can kiss the nomination good-bye. And that'll be a clearer message on Iraq and Bush than anything that happened in CA-50.