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Posted by on Jun 20, 2006 in At TMV | 11 comments

Lieberman Will Run In Primary But Hints Could Run As Independent (UPDATED)

The battle lines are clearly drawn for what could be one of most closely watched Senate primaries — and races — this year, one that all sides agree could have a huge impact on the Democratic party and how many voters perceive it.

In one corner, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. In the other, his challenger and “netroots” favorite, challenger Ned Lamont.

The questions: Will Lieberman withdraw from the primary and will he run as an independent. The answer, via the Hartford Courant: no and possibly yes:

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman said today that he will not withdraw from the Aug. 8 Democratic primary , but he left open the possibility of running in November as a petitioning candidate if he loses the primary.

“I will be in the Democratic primary. I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” he said this morning.

But as in the past, he refused to rule out the option of running as a petitioning candidate should challenger Ned Lamont win the primary.

“If the unexpected happened, do I want to keep open the option of taking my case as an independent Democrat to all the voters of Connecticut so that they can have the last word in November?” Lieberman said. That’s an unanswered question, he said.

What makes Lieberman such a fascianting figure is the kinds of emotions he has aroused and how symbolic he has become:

  • To some Democrats, including some progressive bloggers, getting rid of Lieberman is essential because he is considered to be a DINO (Democratic In Name Only) — a politico who has strongly backed the Bush administration on the war and other issues. When President George Bush hugged him after his State of the Union Address to many of these Democrats, particularly those who are trying to transform the Internet into a vital Democratic political tool, it was not a mere incident but seemingly Lieberman and Bush ending a political “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy about who Lieberman really was.
  • To many moderate Democrats, conservative Democrats (there are still a few of those around) and independent voters, Lieberman is a courageous figure who has put aside partisanship on key national security issues and is a descendant of the JFK/Clinton wing of the party.

Lieberman’s Democratic foes (and that includes many bloggers as well as many Air America talk show hosts) are clamoring for his defeat and Lamont’s election. A lot of energy and presumably money is being put into sending Lieberman — and the Democratic party elite — a message on the need for Democrats to be discernibly different from Republicans or else.

Those who defend Lieberman (and that includes prominent Washington Post columnist David Broder who recently wrote this column about him)see him as someone who has championed national security issues and who has served as a kind of Democratic party political retaining wall against the Democrats’ anti-war wing, which some consider descended from of the old political-poison McGovern faction.

Lieberman has generally been a shoo-in candidate in Connecticut but polls show Lamont making gains. And he recently unveiled a rehash of an old campaign ad that was panned in many quarters. (Yours truly is from Connecticut and some family members know someone who used to work with Lieberman. So I’ve heard about Lieberman for years).

One of the interesting transformations that has befallen Lieberman is that for the past 6 years he has seemingly been transformed into a a perpetual symbol:

–When Al Gore plucked him from the Senate to run for Vice President he was the first Jewish Vice Presidential candidate.
–He had been highly critical of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair and considered a moderate to moderate conservative Democrat when Gore picked him. But once the campaign began he came under fire from some Republicans and even some Democrats in his own state who accused him of discarding his own beliefs and running much further the left under Gore.
–After the election, he was accused of moving back to the right and being a Democrat who the Democratic party elite could not count on to be there in some of the big battles (the war, Social Security reform).

And there’s more:

–To his foes, Lieberman is the kind of person whose defeat would be symbolic because they view him as more of a Republican these days than a Democrat.
–To his supporters, if Lieberman is defeated it would mean the Democratic party’s tent will have shrunk with the exile of a moderate to moderate conservative (use the phrase that fits your personal ideological anchor) Democrat.
–To his foes, Lieberman’s defeat would send a clear message about where the Democratic party stands on the war.
–To his supporters, Lieberman’s defeat would send a clear message about where the Democratic party stands on the war — but they don’t see this as a desirable message.
–To his foes, Lieberman’s defeat would be a big step in the refashioning of the Democratic party more in line with how the base feels.
–To his foes, Lieberman’s defeat would mean a Democratic party purge has begun and the party would be moving significantly left.

Of course, all politics IS local so a question that many pundits aren’t asking — that the votes will determine — is whether Joe Lieberman has worn well with his folks back home or is becoming something of a political kvetch.

And while all this goes on, the Democrats will need to defeat Republicans if they wants to take back either house of Congress in November.

Will the party remain united — or will the Lieberman drama gobble up resources, accentuate a party split and perhaps chase away some of the independent voters up for grabs?

UPDATE:
–The latest polls show Lieberman’s primary polling margin is shrinking and that he’d win by far fewer votes if he runs as an independent than if he runs as a Democrat.
Kos thinks these polls explain something about Lieberman’s chosen path.
Bull Moose sees Connecticut as a “central battleground for immoderate centrists…. That is where the lefties have decided to fight. The national immoderate center must converge there to stand our ground. If the left prevails, one party could jump off the cliff.”
–Blogs for Bush’s Mark Noonan sees Al Gore as a “backstabbing creep” for refusing to endorse former running mate Lieberman.
The Patriot Diaries expresses dismay over the way it says the Democratic party is trying to tear itself apart.
Connecticut Bob posts his original interview You Tube video with Lamont on his site.

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