It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

We might have just pushed Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party and put a whole lot of DC Democrats in awkward positions.  If Joe becomes an independent, we will also have changed the netroots narrative and destroyed the Sista Souljah path to power so common in the Democratic Party since 1992.

First, I think Lieberman is going to jump out of the Democratic Party (Colin McEnroe thinks it's more likely now as well).  Joe's weak among liberals and he doesn't have the numbers to win in the primary.  If you look at the town delegates that voted for Lieberman, you'll see they were in the big urban centers where city machines are strongest.  There was a credentials fight where the mayor of Hartford refused to seat Lamont-friendly delegates (though the conflict was related to the gubernatorial race and the Lamont piece was incidental). In the areas with no patronage - the small towns - Ned cleaned up.  This is very very bad for Lieberman, since it means that the convention dramatically overstated his strength.  

Lieberman is also losing in other, significant ways - he doesn't really have labor support, a prime mover of votes.  Just how is he going to get voters to the polls in the primary?  Who are these Lieberman supporters?  The die-hard Joementum lovers?  There are a few, but not a lot in the Democratic Party.  In early April, I wrote that the Convention was Lieberman's test of strength.

The likeliest path forward for him is to test his strength at the convention, and based on that decide whether to run as a D or an I.  From his perspective, he probably has a better chance in the general against Lamont than he does in the primary, so dropping out and running as an independent might be the most rational move, though it would be costly.  So watch the convention carefully.

If Lieberman drops out of the primary to run as an independent, it's going to be very strange for a lot of stakeholders.  First of all, the DSCC and Senate Democrats will be thrust into some very awkward positions.  Does Lieberman keep his committee assignments?  Does the DSCC come in on Ned Lamont's behalf?  These are questions they should be considering.

This is basically still the dynamic.  There's one other point here, a psychological one.  Lieberman is a Reagan-era Democrat, and he worships at the altar of the 'swing voter'.  He thinks he's perfectly positioned to appeal to that voter, and so with the Republicans locked up he can win as an independent since the independent swing voters are going to come his way.  Of course, his support among independents is crashing, but that will just confuse him, not change his mind.

My guess is that the national party committees are nervously watching Connecticut now.  Howard Dean is on the record saying that the DNC will support the eventual nominee. Lieberman committed to running as a Democrat to Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, but he won't go on the record about it.  I have no doubt Lieberman will break this pledge, but that doesn't mean his party support will dry up.  Schumer thinks that the DSCC's job is to support incumbents, and it's not clear that he means Democratic incumbents.

My guess is that the DSCC sticks with Lieberman, even if Lieberman jumps to become an independent.  That's just a guess.  They never thought they'd have to be involved here, and may be stuck in a bind.  They also are probably underestimating the amount of blowback from backing an independent Lieberman against a Democratic Lamont, since they don't really believe that we're real.  The DNC will not go with Lieberman if he jumps.  It may stay neutral, or it may come in for Lamont.  This is going to set up an interesting fight should Lieberman look at the numbers and decide that he's better off in a general than a primary.

Regardless, Ned Lamont is now a real candidate, and a legitimate challenger to Lieberman.  There has always been wide expectations that Lieberman would simply crush Lamont.  When Lieberman had the whole Connecticut establishment (including labor unions heads) go to his birthday party and talk about how great he is, one serious DC insider said to me "Matt, Lieberman's a serious guy and a great politician.  You don't know what you're up against.  And watch, there's a lot more coming." Well, I have to say that this convention showed, once again, that the insiders have bad political judgment.  Still, he's right about one thing.  Lieberman has $5 million that he can spend on sliming Lamont, though he probably spent 300k-500k on the convention fight, with all the glossy mailers and food and drink at the expo center.  Lamont needs money, and I hope this convention has proved that his campaign will spend it well.

This is the candidate and the fight we've always dreamed of.  Let's get Ned's back:

http://actblue.com/page/netrootscandidat es?refcode=MyDD

Tags: Chuck Schumer, Connecticut, DNC, DSCC, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont (all tags)

Comments

33 Comments

Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Not to state the obvious or anything, Matt, but Lamont didn't actually win anything. In fact, he lost about 2:1, which is almost exactly where he is in the polls right now. I'm not sure where you get your idea that the convention "overstated Lieberman's strength". In fact, conventions are where party activists and others who follow politics closely are at their strongest. This would be the only audience in the state where Lamont has 100% name ID. The polls don't lie. Lamont is still 30 points down with a 10:1 money hole. And Lamont spent a whole lot more on the run-up to the convention than Lieberman did, with those ads he placed last week. I imagine he's got less than 2-3 days of TV time in the bank right now.

In Colorado in 2004, a guy named Mike Miles challenged Ken Salazar for the Dem nomination for Senator. He was the favorite of liberals and party activists, whereas Salazar was the favorite of the party apparatus and moderates (not to mention Republicans). We also had an August primary, and had our state party convention around this same time. And Miles actually WON the convention (not lost by 30 points like Lamont). You all know what happened in the actual primary (Salazar by about 35, as I recall, give or take a few points). The similarities are quite striking. This is a nice start for Lamont, but he's only got 2 1/2 months to go, he's broke, and Lieberman's ad barrage is about to begin in earnest (he's got about 8 weeks worth of saturation buys in the bank, probably 10 weeks with additional fundraising --- Lamont's got 3 days).

Still a long long longshot.

by ColoDem 2006-05-20 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Colorado is not a machine state, and the conventions are very different.  The Quinnipiac poll is basically useless for primary voters (the question was also phrased badly), and Joe's use of money hasn't had much of an effect so far.

And you know, every comment you've ever made has been anti-Lamont, regardless of the evidence.  You're a smart guy, and it saddens me you're willing to toss away your credibility like that.

by Matt Stoller 2006-05-20 06:55AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

"You're a smart guy, and it saddens me you're willing to toss away your credibility like that."

I still think the jury is out on this (though I am supporting Lamont as much as an out-of-stater can), it could go either the way you think or the way ColoDem thinks, so how is ColoDem tossing away credibility until we know the answer?

by MNPundit 2006-05-20 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

"You're a smart guy, and it saddens me you're willing to toss away your credibility like that." This is exactly the kind of smug, patronizing remarks from the professional bloggers here (none worse than Stoller's rant about how trivial the problems faced by suburbanites are) that have really turned me off. We're all in this together, you know, so why are you guys so quick to dismiss? By the way, before you attack my credentials, I'm working full time no pay for John Pavich in Illinois 11.

by AC4508 2006-05-20 10:50AM | 0 recs
The obvious is that

a man who just started campaigning in Connecticut has moved the elephant like candidate.  Ned Lamont and his campaign showed us last night that they are waking the sleeping folks in small towns.  

The politics of the Democratic party and the leaders has caused this shift of the true Democrats.  Lieberman, as we all know was a true Centrist and the grassroots are not Centrist.

You speak of Miles in Colorado.  Did you work on that campaign? Do you have advice that the entire grassroots can do to stop the party appartus and moderates from once again using their political pull to save Lieberman?

by Lizzy 2006-05-20 07:05AM | 0 recs
Excellent post by Matt

and you make interesting counter points.

The graph of Lieberman's approval ratings tells the real story, namely, that Lieberman went from 18 points plus to a couple of point negative in just four months. Ned has the momentum to make it some 10 or more points in the negative over th next couple months.

I'd say that when an incumbent goes into an election with a -5 point or worse approval gap, he /shetends to lose the election. Harnessing this will precisely be how Ned can win the primary, and I predict that he will win.

The unknown now is what JL's next move will be. Will he jump the ship and go independent. It's an utter shame that party honchos like Schumer haven't come out saying that they'd support the eventual Dem nominee. I was appalled to read this from Schumer's interview:


Question:  Would that hold if Senator Lieberman decided to run as an Independent?

Schumer:  I think we'll have to, you know, cross that bridge when we come to it, because it hasn't happened.  Will Senator Lieberman be pledging to vote for Harry Reid for Leader?  Will he be running as a Democrat but on a different line?  I don't know; I'd have to give it. . .  If it's a Democrat versus a Republican, there's no complicating factor.  We'd, you know, almost always vote for the Democrat.  In this situation we expect Lieberman to win.  I don't think. . .  So, you know, we'll have to weigh that when we come (sic).  Our goal is first and foremost to elect a Democratic Senate.  We think there's a moral imperative there, given everything else, and I suppose that would guide our decision.

This clearly establishes that this IS a battle between the party establishment and the netroots. And I think we will win this time.

I am a strong proponent of the notion of "Primary Challenges", i.e. trying to make the party more progressive by fighting from within, using primary challenges to the party and principle unfaithful like Lieberman. This contest is also a true test of that approach.

It's time for the netroots to rise to the occassion and help Ned win this one, just as he rose to hear our calling by waging the run!

by NuevoLiberal 2006-05-20 07:11AM | 0 recs
"Centrist know Nothings" should

be read by all. Digby was spot on:

Since the DLC became the guiding force in the Democratic establishment the Party has lost everything. We are making a lot of noise because assholes like Al From have allowed the Republicans to turn liberalism into a bucket of warm spit --- and put the government entirely in the hands of the far right. It's not about the war. That's just the most visible example. It's about having no standards, no loyalty, no principles --- and losing because of it!

The netroots took on Liebeman "because he enables Republicans on a host of issues and consistently shows disloyalty to the party in a hyper-partisan era."

The November mid-term election is all about the netroots speaking out, and it needs to, and not allowing the party machine to decide.

by Lizzy 2006-05-20 07:32AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

It doesn't matter whether or not Lamont wins. I hope he does. What I want is to put the fear of the base into Joe and others like him. This alone changes the dynamics of triangulation/solely focusing on swing voters as a calculus for governing and/or how members talk about the party. If this is even close, that will demonstrate that there is a large constituency that's willing to push irresponsible members out that the members can not (as they are doing now) simply ignore in the calculus for deciding how to vote or how to talk about the pary. It's one of the same strategies, as I understand it, used by the right to keep their party members in line.

by bruh21 2006-05-20 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

So sorry, but it does matter if Lamont and others like him win. If the progressive candidates simply run a good race but don't win, it will simply convince the DC crowd that they are right and that our candidates don't have the same appeal as their candidates. We not only need for progressives to win the primaries, we need to remind the Dem. leadership that they must financially support the primary winners. We are not the fringe left of the party. We are the activist base of the party, and it's high time our party "leaders" started listening to us.

by grayslady 2006-05-20 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

You maybe right, but JL isn't acting like someone- and nor is the rest the party- who likes to take these kinds of chances. I believe the problem has been that they thought there was no risk involved. that we would follow no matter what- afterall- where else, they may have thought, do we have to go? They need us in the general- and having a pissed off base in the general, I would assume, even they know isn't a good thing. But, your argument is equally valid, and probably more likely.

by bruh21 2006-05-20 08:42AM | 0 recs
When all you have is a hammer...
It's tempting for you to look at the similarities, but I don't see these two situations as similar at all.  Just to name a couple of key differences...

  1. You're talking about a race for an open seat that at the time was held by the other party.  We're talking about an 18 year incumbent in a solidly Democratic state.  When you have two new candidates running for an open seat, everything is wide open.  When you have an entrenched incumbent whose general election prospect is 100% safe and an almost unknown challenger takes 1/3 of the vote at his party convention, that's a body blow.  If you want to think of a good parallel, think of DeLay "winning" his primary in TX-22 last month - and in that case, they did have a credible general election challenge to worry about.

  2. Colorado has been a Republican dominated state for a long time, and Democrats were just coming into ascendancy.  CT is a Democratic state.  I've organized in very blue states and swing states and red states over the past few years, and there's a striking difference in the relationship between the party and the new grassroots.  I don't think you appreciate quite the level of entrenched party insiderness we get in blue state Democratic parties that are used to holding most of the mayorships and state legislative seats and US Senate and House seats and don't feel like they need new blood, or don't know how to go about it.  They've got solid stable relationships with their old-school power base and it's very difficult to challenge them.
by cos 2006-05-20 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

I just came from the weekly anti-Iraq war demonstration on Sagatuck Bridge in Westport, CT.  The news that Lamont had gotten 33% of the convention vote truly exhilarated the other demonstrators.  My sign read "Bush, Shays, Lieberman - Still Wrong".  Judging from the reaction of the cars passing by, of the roughly 75% of people who did show a response, 90% were against the Iraq War and presumably against Lieberman's position.  Of course you can't say how many are Democrats and how many will vote in the primary.  What you can say is that the anti-Iraq war feelings are very strong, and the potential for a huge anti-Bush and anti-Lieberman vote is huge.  Matt is completely correct - the convention vastly over-stated Lieberman's support.  Using my own DTC as an example: As best as I can tell it went 14-1 for Lieberman.  I think this is due to the fact that many did not want to go on the record against Lieberman with the threat of him winning and retaliation against the town.  From speaking to many of them personally, they are not strong supporters of what Lieberman has been saying, and appalled at the suggestion he might bolt the party.  In the privacy of the voting booth, I think many might vote for Lamont.  

With an intense ground game of identifying Lamont supporters and getting out their vote for the August 8th primary, especially absentee ballots, Lieberman can be defeated.

by Joe Scordato 2006-05-20 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

It's not the same situation at all.  First, CT is a blue state while in Colorado Miles had much less chance to win than Salazar.

Second, CT is a machine state and CO has a more progressive Dem establishment.

Third, Ned Lamont has $100 million in the bank to self-fund his campaign and an established fund raising base to supplement it.

Miles wasn't willing to do the serious begging and pleading for eight hours a day day in and day out that serious candidates for United States Senate must do if they are not fabulously wealthy.  

If Miles had been serious about fund raising, he probably would have won his primary.  That would have meant raising about tn times what he did and spending about twenty times as much of his time on fundraising.  It would have meant a lot of stress and rejection and probably some compromises with interest groups.  You may not like it (I don't) but that is the price of playing for serious stakes and Miles wasn't wiling to pay.

That, and only that, is why Miles lost.

by ChetEdModerate 2006-05-20 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

CAN Lamont spend his own money? What are the CT rules for a primary vs. general election on this?

by MNPundit 2006-05-20 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Yes he can.

Federal rules, not CT.

by DanielUA 2006-05-20 11:05AM | 0 recs
Where is DFA on this?

Have they taken a position yet?

I gather that Moveon.org was going to do a member poll to determine whom to support. When is that poll expected to take place?

by NuevoLiberal 2006-05-20 07:17AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

You've got it backwards.  We didn't push Joe out; he walked out on us.  A long time ago.  When Bush and his cadre began to exploit the support they stumbled into through this country's post-9/11 fears by, among other things, initiating a vanity war on false pretenses, dismantling the intelligence vetting process, shaving away our constitutional rights and appointing an army of conservative judges, we needed a prominent Democrat with just the tiniest bit of courage and vision to stand up and question what the Administration was doing.  Lieberman could have been that Democrat.  Instead, he shuffled over to the bath tub started to talk us into drinking the Administration's Kool-Aid.  He's a closet Republican.  What's surprising to me is that, according to your chart, his disapproval rating only recently climbed above 50%.    

by dws 2006-05-20 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Lieberman will lose much of his machine support as an independent; a lot of people will feel released from commitments they made to him on the basis of his being an incumbent Democrat. For instance, New Haven mayor and gubernatorial candidate John de Stefano told Lieberman publicly that he would not support him as an independent: He will support the winner of the democratic primary.

by Swordsmith 2006-05-20 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

I actually hope that Joementum defects and decides to contest the general as an independent. This will then in broad daylight show the DSCC and the DC Dem establishement for what they really are.

by ab initio 2006-05-20 08:29AM | 0 recs
I agree - it strips the paint to show

the "defect in the product" to use an analogy

If he does defect it can only be a win situation for the netroots and the Democratic Party as a whole as it will spark conversation/dialogue which this country desperately needs about ALL issues.

Good job to all the Lamont delegates in Conn.!

by merbex 2006-05-20 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

If he runs as an independent we need to be careful. We don't want to lose the seat. If Reid were to kick Lieberman off committee leadership the Republican would offer him leadership in exchange for caususing as a Republican. Besides, for the rest of his term he's still caucusing with the Democrats which makes him deserving of his committee seats (just like Sanders will once he's there).

I have no idea what the DSCC should do. I'd just as soon have them stay out of it as anything else. If they fund Lieberman it would be infuriating. If the fund Lamont it would be surreal and could push Lieberman to caucus with the GOP.

Its obviously huge and exciting that Lamont did so well but Senate leadership needs to tread very lightly if Lieberman bails.

by js noble 2006-05-20 10:17AM | 0 recs
These are good questions

You're right that if Joementum remains in the Democratic caucus (although as an independent) he should retain his committee seats (I think).

However, that doesn't mean that the DSCC needs to keep funding him. They should be aware that supporting an independent Joe Lieberman over the Conneticut Democratic Party's nominee will not only look bad, but it could cause their fundraising to dry up.

Look for dem activists who are currently giving money to the DSCC to start giving directly to preferred Senate candidates if the DSCC decides to send money to Joe Leiberman in the general election.

by robin oz 2006-05-20 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

This should not be read as supporting Lieberman, who is an idiot, but if he runs as an independent, and if he wins, then expect Republicans and the beltway based media, to start reporting how the Dems, bloggers, and liberals are "out of touch." If Lieberman runs as an independent he will blast bloggers and liberals on his way out the door and the beltway media will pick up on this theme.

All of this is not to say that Lamont shouldn't be backed or that he shouldn't run. It is to say that the people backing Lamont better start thinking about how they will react if Lieberman takes that road.

The problem is that the media is not prepared for a Democratic Party that acts like an opposition party. What they want is a Democratic party that makes compromises with Republicans. They want this because (a). it fits their theme about the two parties which is that Republicans are tough and Democrats are not, and (b). they realize that if both parties become like the Republicans, then nothing will get done. Hence, the media is always pressuring Dems to compromise and rewarding them when they are like Lieberman.

The response to most of these attacks is to say very clearly that we want power and intend to get power to bring about differnent policies. Hence, we have no interest in helping Republicans make their policies look better by compromising with them. Dems like Lieberman, though, are unwilling to take that stand and the media supports them in their positions.

All of this is not to say "be careful what you wish for", but is to say that it is time to start thinking about what to do is Lieberman jumps the Dems.

PS>I don't think that he will because I think that Reid is smart enough to get that commitment from Joe as part of his supporting Joe.

by mrgavel 2006-05-20 10:52AM | 0 recs
"Out of Touch" is..

a Democrat who still supports this idiotic war, who in fact helped make the false connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, who voted for the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill, who stood with Delay on the wrong side of the Schiavo madness, who failed women by not fighting to block Alito, who was one of only six Democrats to vote to confirm AG Alberto "Torture is Legal" Gonzales, who voted for CAFTA, after NAFTA, who calls Sean Hannity a wonderful American, but criticizes Jimmy Carter for sitting next to Michael Moore.

What I'm saying is don't give a fucking inch.

by TrueBlueCT 2006-05-20 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: "Out of Touch" is..

But the issue is not what happens to Lieberman, the issue is how will we spin it to the media so it doesn't hurt progressive candidates in future elections.

by mrgavel 2006-05-20 06:42PM | 0 recs
What happens to...?

There had been talk that since Lamont was not going to get enough delegates at the convention, he was going to have to get on the ballot through signatures, and that it was a good thing because the organization necessary and the act of signing would bring more people for Lamont.  So, now that he is already on the ballot, what happens to Lamont's grassroots team?  Where does the energy that was going to go into petitioning go?

by KazHooker 2006-05-20 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: What happens to...?

I would bet they are out getting petitions signed. It is always a good idea to do that as well...the political equivalent of "running up the score". It makes for good press.

by ElitistJohn 2006-05-20 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Does anyone have a breakdown of Convention votes?  I would like to see how delegates from individual towns voted.  

by Winston Smith 2006-05-20 01:08PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Unofficial tally from CTLocalPolitics, here:

http://connecticutlocalpolitics.blogspot .com/2006/05/lieberman-nominated-lamont- gets-over.html#comments

Note: Lamont did incredibly well within CT's small towns. Lieberman began to hold his patronage centers, which are CT's one-party cities. Lieberman seems to be positioning himself to run to Lamont's left. Which is hilarious. He actually sent out a pre-convention mailer trying to depict Lamont as a closeted Republican. (and not him!)

by TrueBlueCT 2006-05-20 02:09PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

Is there a town-by-town break down?  As someone who worked the trenches in local Democratic races in my youth, I am interested in seeing how certain towns went.  

by Winston Smith 2006-05-20 11:49PM | 0 recs
Re: It's Fun to Be on the Right Side of History

That's.. trenches in central Connecticut.

by Winston Smith 2006-05-20 11:50PM | 0 recs
MoveOn Poll...

They will conduct a 24hr poll beginning next Thursday, the 25th. I believe the bar is at 66.67%, meaning Ned will gain this valuable endorsement in less than a week.

by TrueBlueCT 2006-05-20 01:58PM | 0 recs
by riptid 2006-10-03 02:00AM | 0 recs

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