GOP Abandons Republican Senate Candidate Schlesinger In Connecticut


What’s the loneliest job in the world? President?

Noooooo. It’s running as the Republican candidate for Senate in Connecticut, according to the New York Times:

Facing Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s independent candidacy, Republican officials at the state and national level have made the extraordinary decision to abandon their official candidate, and some are actively working to help Mr. Lieberman win in November.

Despite Mr. Lieberman’s position that he will continue to caucus with Democrats if re-elected, all three Republican Congressional candidates in Connecticut have praised Mr. Lieberman and have not endorsed the party’s nominee, Alan Schlesinger. An independent group with Republican ties is raising money for Mr. Lieberman, who has been a strong supporter of President Bush on the Iraq war.

Which raises the question: if this is going on, how long will it take before the Democratic party leadership and Democrats working to elect Democratic members of their party to Congress aggressively begin going after Lieberman in the election campaign? MORE:

Senator John McCain of Arizona, while saying he would support the Republican nominee, is not planning to campaign for him, and even allowed two of his aides to consult with the Lieberman camp before the Aug. 8 Democratic primary. And Newt Gingrich, the Republican who once served as House speaker, has endorsed Mr. Lieberman’s candidacy.

Newt’s endorsement should make a lot of Democrats feel good about Lieberman caucusing with the Democrats and getting some prime positions in the Senate if he wins. AND:

While some Republicans are quietly rooting for his Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, because they feel he would be such a polarizing liberal target, many leading Republicans say it would serve the party better to have a centrist like Mr. Lieberman remain in office, particularly after being spurned by his own party.

But one thing is clear: there is little to no talk of bolstering Mr. Schlesinger, 48, the Republican nominee, a little-known former mayor of Derby who has registered polling numbers so low they are breaking records. Little known throughout the state, Mr. Schlesinger received attention this summer following reports in The Hartford Courant that he had gambled under a fake name and once had gambling debts. He has dismissed the accounts as irrelevant.

So it’s important to NOTE: when you read stories about the GOP and Lieberman, it is not exclusively that they want Lieberman because he’s Lieberman.

They feel they have the Connecticut equivalent of Florida’s Katherine Harris heading their ticket…and they’re opting for Lieberman.

If Lieberman ran in Florida, Republicans would lovingly embrace him there as a huge improvement over Harris. (Actually, in political terms a cantalope would be huge improvement over Harris.)

But the key reason why GOPers are now but all campaigning for Lieberman is that they feel Lieberman will be on their page in some critical fights against Democrats in the Senate. Will this include vital Congressional oversight battles?

So what about Schlesinger? A happy camper, he ain’t:

Mr. Schlesinger has reacted bitterly to the rejection by his own party, dismissing calls for him to leave the race. He maintains he can win by conveying his conservative platform to voters.

“Washington and the media have attempted to hijack this election and turn it into a referendum on the future of the national Democratic Party,� Mr. Schlesinger said in an interview yesterday. “Their interest is not in electing a Republican in Connecticut, or anyone in particular in Connecticut.�

The Times notes that White House spokesman Tony Snow “pointedly refused” to say the White House would endorse Schlesinger. And RNC chairman Ken Mehlman pledge “to stay out of this one.”

A key question then becomes: can Lieberman end his campaign (presuming he wins) without burning his bridges with the Democratic party if he continues to suggest the party or its candidates can’t be trusted with the nation’s security?

Lieberman has already hired
two pollsters — one a Democrat and one a Republican — and is pointing to that as proof that his campaign is truly a bipartisan one. Lieberman is way ahead in the latest poll in Connecticut. Even a bitterly anti-Lieberman local liberal talk show host here in San Diego recently talked as if the Lamont candidacy was a goner.

Will key Democrats aggressively campaign against Lieberman — and risk alienating some independents and centrists who want Lieberman — or not?

The Democrats’ 2004 Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards was in Connecticut where he campaigned for Lamont, pointedly against Lieberman — but also had some pointed words for Lamont, too:

Mr. Edwards, who is considering a bid for the White House in 2008, became the first presidential hopeful to campaign for Mr. Lamont, who defeated Senator Joseph I. Lieberman last week in the Democratic primary here. Mr. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, said Mr. Lieberman should be “honoring the decision� of Connecticut voters by bowing out of the race.

However, Mr. Lieberman has been repositioning himself as an independent, and a poll released on Thursday showed him 12 percentage points ahead of Mr. Lamont in the general election among likely voters. The senator’s supporters say the poll shows that he will be tough to defeat.

“He should not be running as an independent,� Mr. Edwards said at a rally with Mr. Lamont outside the Yale School of Medicine. “I don’t think it has anything to do with polls. This is about democracy. He’s a Democrat, he ran in a Democratic primary and he didn’t win. Democrats chose Ned Lamont as their candidate; he should be their candidate.�

But Mr. Edwards, who later held a $250-a-head fund-raiser here for Mr. Lamont, said Mr. Lamont would also have to show voters that he stood for more than simply criticism of Mr. Lieberman.

Indeed, the Democratic left that helped defeat Lieberman has been so vehement in its opposition to him and anger at him for supporting the war that it seemingly obliterates other messages that swing voters, Democrats who are not of the party’s left wing, and moderate Republicans (Connecticut does have some of those) need to hear.

Just as a Democratic presidential hopeful has to “run left” in the primaries and generally “run (more) center” in the general election to win win by building a powerful electoral coalition, Lamont has to do it — in record time.

At this point, at least, it looks as if Lieberman is on the way to having already built one.