Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

I remember a conversation that I had with a very smart donor about Lamont before November, one in which he said that the second worst situation for progressives would be a loss to Lieberman in the primary, and the worst situation would be winning the primary and then losing the general.  At the time, it seemed like an eminently reasonable opinion, because he was essentially arguing that either situation would reveal the impotence of the progressive movement.  As you know, the second scenario came to pass.  After the election I was confused as to why Joe wasn't chest-beating, wasn't talking anymore about saving the soul of the Democratic Party.  I didn't understand why the press wasn't helping him.

I still fully don't, but with conservative Democrat Max Baucus calling for a withdrawal in six months, it seems fairly clear that Joe Lieberman just doesn't matter anymore.  The whole escalation fight has been between Bush and a number of Democrats, including Reid, Pelosi, Biden, Murtha and Kennedy, all of whom have different positions and strategies.  McCain is in there too, backing Bush with even more of a surge.  So are the blogs and Moveon, pushing for withdrawal.  Moderate Republicans are in a pickle, being pushed back and forth.

But where's Joe?  Sure he was at that AEI event calling for escalation, but would he have mattered without McCain?  I don't think so.  Lieberman is just out there, like another irrelevant warblogger.  It's weird.  It's unexpected.  My sense is that a good part of this is traceable to his defeat in the primary on August 8.  I wish we had won in November, and it hurt us that we didn't.  But maybe not as much as I had feared.

What do you think?

Tags: Connecticut, CT-Sen, Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont (all tags)

Comments

35 Comments

Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

I think it's weird and unexpected. Remember the time when we wished wistfully for somebody to run against Lieberman to teach him a lesson, and teach Democrats a lesson? So many changes since then. I like it when the unexpected happens, when the mystery unfolds.

by mrobinsong 2007-01-10 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

I think Joe mattered when we were focused with winning. We challenged Joe because he undermined the democrats' message and party in general. But we won, and we have much, much more important things to focus on. With Dem control of both houses, it just doesn't matter anymore.

Also, Joe mattered when Bush could still use the war against democrats. He could use Joe for political cover. But with the nation so overwhelmingly against the war now, and with democratic leaders now having the reins and the megaphones, Lieberman can't enable the president like he used to.

That's my take.

by AaronE 2007-01-10 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

Yes.  Joe staked his political career on his war position.  Events forced the Republicans to the right, but his previous chest-beating kept him fixed in the same spot where he was.  Now he's stuck as a single-issue politician, and is to the right of the Republicans of his one significant issue.  

by Valatan 2007-01-10 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

And also, I think that most Democrats realize that Joe's method of winning would only be effective in a state like CT, where the Republicans are already irrelevant.  Anywhere else, and the primary would have been the end of the road.

by Valatan 2007-01-10 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

Matt:

I beleive that Lieberman's primary loss was a wake up call to a number of Dems who stodd on the fence about withdrawal or who outright opposed it.  As a result, the rest of the Democratic Party has left Lieberman behind.  

To be honest, I really did not expect this either.  After the primary win I was very worried that Lieberman would be able to take the general election because he is EXACTLY what the Republican party needed to win there.  I don't think the relevancy of the progressive movement can necessarily be traced to how many elections have been won, although there certainly have been more than a few, but by how the dialouge has changed.  Before the Lieberman loss the Party as a whole was unsure where it stood, but afterwards they knew damn well where they needed to stand or face similar consequences.

by Mark J. Bowers 2007-01-10 09:14AM | 0 recs
If you're going to exclude Lieberman's

...recent pro-war appearances, based on the fact that he had McCain with him, then you're left without any recent pro-war appearances (as far as I've seen.)

But politicians often make joint appearances.  I don't get how excluding Lieberman's AEI appearance and interview with Tim Russert because McCain was with him is fair.

If Lamont had won, Lieberman probably wouldn't have done either recent appearance.

by EricJaffa 2007-01-10 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: If you're going to exclude Lieberman's

That's true, he's been on TV, but it's always been as a junior partner to McCain.  

He's making appearances but not making news.

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-10 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

Joe has been slapped down just like Arlen Spector was slapped down by the anti-choicers.  Joe knows that he almost lost his seat; even though the final vote  wasn't close, he's gotta know that if there had been a real Republican candidate he'd be looking for job now.  If the Senate wasn't so close he'd be marginalized even more.  None of the current stars of the Dem party owe him any loyalty (Obama, Clinton, Pelosi).  Just like Spector wound up bowing and scraping to the far right, so Lieberman will have to move back into alignment with the rest of his party in Conneticut.  

by alameda 2007-01-10 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

And yet... he hasn't.

by nstrauss 2007-01-10 02:26PM | 0 recs
I think that the prosaic order really is the order

Best: Lamont wins primary and general
Middle: Lamont wins primary, loses general
Worst: Lamont loses primary

That is, people making the argument above were being too clever by half. When it turned out that the main story of the Election was, "Voters reject Republican Corruption, Republican Iraq War", all that tactical thinking was rendered obsolete by the strategic shift in the political environment.

And under that strategic shift, it fell back to the basics. Forcing Lieberman to fight for a win as a 3rd party candidate really was second best to ousting him. Sitting senators do not want to have to contest primary elections, and even less do they want to have to play a Lieberman if they want to hold onto their seat. And they certainly realize that they could not hope to pull that kind of stunt two elections in a row and expect success ... for one thing, you can't actually run a 'sore loser' race in every state, and the more sore loser races there are, the more anti-sore-loser rules will be put into place.

So, empty election rhetoric aside, beltway pundit protective wordplay aside, everyone knows that Lieberman took a knock, and if he wants to gain re-election next time he is probably going to have to start running to win the primary from 2009.

And since no sitting Senator wants to go down that route, everyone in Washington knows that he took a knock. They just aren't going to rub it in publically, because he may be needed among the 60% support required for cloture on some issue somewhere down the track.

by BruceMcF 2007-01-10 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: I think that the prosaic order really is the o

Yeah, I think we were being a too clever by half.  

by Matt Stoller 2007-01-10 09:49AM | 0 recs
You are just going to have to face it ...

... while it would obviously have been better to win the seat, overall and in the bigger picture, the Lamont campaign really did accomplish a net positive. But as with many such partial victories, the politics dictate that none of the Washington insiders will really admit it until it comes time to retire and write their memoires.

by BruceMcF 2007-01-11 03:09PM | 0 recs
no, I agree with the very smart donor

The worst possible outcome was the one that happened: Lamont winning the primary but losing the general. Narrowly losing the primary to Lieberman would have been a much, much better outcome.

He doesn't have to beat his chest. He has shown other Dem incumbents that they can survive even a strong progressive primary challenge. And if any of our Dem incumbents in states with Republican governors should have a critical health problem (I believe there are 19 of those), then Lieberman is the key to Republicans gaining back the majority.

by desmoinesdem 2007-01-10 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: no, I agree with the very smart donor

He showed them no such thing.  He lost the primary -- he did not survive the primary challenge.

No Senator wants to be bounced from their party and forced to run as an independent.  In a lot of states, it legally can't be done.  In a lot of states, a credible Republican would be on the ballot and the independent would lose.

And he really didn't enjoy the experience.

Moreover, I think the press has been ignoring him because it's clear he doesn't speak for any constituency in the Democratic Party and therefore his views don't have a lot of relevance as an indicator of "division" within the party.

by kilb 2007-01-10 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: no, I agree with the very smart donor

This is a very important point.

Since Lieberman was rejected in the primary, he can no longer give any Bush plan a "bipartisan" imprimatur. As a frontpager at DKos recently noted, you can't speak for Democrats if you don't win your primary.

Thus, even though we lost the general, Lieberman has been somewhat neutralized as a weight on the Democratic Party brand. The fact that the official Democratic leaders in the House and Senate and the legislation they put forth now set that brand only serves to further entrench this dynamic. Individual personas and picking off individuals for "bipartisan cover" are more important when you are in the minority than when you are in the majority.

Still, it is nice to be able to avoid headlines like "Bush surge proposal draws bipartisan support" because of Joe Lieberman and McCain working together on it.

And really, what was our beef with Lieberman? that he undermined the democratic party at pivotal, key moments on key issues and gave this administration cover for some of its worst policies. That aspect of Lieberman's place in the national discourse has been effectively neutralized by his primary loss. His power has been lessened. He'll no doubt throw wrenches in our future plans on some important votes since he's still there, but he's not the symbol he once was.

by AmericanJedi 2007-01-10 10:17AM | 0 recs
Re: no, I agree with the very smart donor

What's more, even in victory, Joe won with republican and independent votes. He did not win the democratic share of the vote. Of course he got more than we would have hoped, but his victory was quite simply down to the republicans deciding to back Joe rather than Alan.

So when Joe goes on tv he speaks as someone who won with republican and independent votes, not as the "moderate wing of the extremist democratic party".

The days of bipartisan cover are over.

by kundalini 2007-01-10 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: no, I agree with the very smart donor

I disagree. I think winning the primary was a good thing for lAMONT. It is too bad the deal wasn't closed. But still, Liebs was forced to show his true colors. I think the electorate of CT didn't have enough time to mentally shun LIeberman in large enough numbers. Winning the primary led to small steps in the anti war movement, but positive steps nonetheless. Hillary's rhetoric with respect to the war began to change a little bit. If Lamont lost, the netroots would have been marginalised big time.

Lieberman has been cornered into getting support from the republicans. He is on a short lease with some of the democrats who stuck by him.

As the years go by, more people will be following politics on the internet. As we welcome more people into the fold, we will keep reminding them of people like LIeberman.

by Pravin 2007-01-10 09:25PM | 0 recs
724
     The number of days until the beginning of the 111th Congress, when we will likely have a bigger majority, and no longer need the support of the Independent Senator from Connecticut to maintain Democratic control.
     The absolute worst result would have been to lose the primary. We would still be dirty hippies with no broad support in the party. Even Lieberman seems to have come to the realization that he's not a Democratic Senator anymore. It's an extra bonus that he's such a prima donna as to be personally offended that nearly all of his Democratic colleagues supported the Democratic candidate.
by Ron Thompson 2007-01-10 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race
Joe's overwhelming Ego has relegated him to Irrelevance within the Democratic Party and its future.
The worst scenario would have been Ned losing the Primary. We were hamstringed in the General by the lack of a real Republican challenger, allowing old incumbent Joe to win.
by Predictor 2007-01-10 09:48AM | 0 recs
Who would have anticipated this discussion???

Given that Lieberman had incredible name recognition and Lamont had zero, at this point last year?  Best case scenario is that Lamont wins both the primary and the general, of course, but the reality was pretty sweet as well.  I think the primary results shook up a number of people around the country, energized a whole lot more to become more active (I participated in Lamont's campaign--the first I've done more than donate money), and (just on a completely snarky note) really annoyed Lieberman.  

Lieberman HAS been on the news, but the reason he isn't "leading" in any way is that while he can claim to be "bipartisan" in supporting the escalation, the truth is that's an increasingly unpopular view.  There's no traction is being bipartisan if that means you go down with the ship.  (sorry for the mixed metaphors)  I continue to think that he's biding his time, and is working towards getting on the McCain ticket, or, working towards a future cabinet post.  He demonstrated how two-faced and hypocritical he can be during the election, so he's sure not biding his time to be a statesman.  As for here in CT?  He's not mentioned much, if at all.  Thanks for small favors.

by CTvoter 2007-01-10 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

However you rank the possibilities, they'd all be better if Connecticut would now pass a Sore Loserman law in his honor.

by drlimerick 2007-01-10 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

My take:

The change of senate control has changed the context for evaluating the race. Primarily, because the public souring on Iraq and Bush was the principle driver of Democratic victory, the moral and political reasoning behind the lamont challenge was affirmed. Most regard Lieberman as having won the general election inspite of his politics and policy stances.

As an actor within the Senate, Lieberman, I think, has been greatly strengthened. By having beaten back a challenge from his party's base, Lieberman is seen as having a unique bi-partisan credibility. This means that his co-sponsorship will be increasingly sought out especially by Republicans. He'll be increasingly immune to any attempt to enforce partisan discipline. Lieberman has already re-taken the lead in trying to re-organize a coalition of Democratic Senate centrists who'll be willing to engage in future 'gang of 14' efforts. He also serves as a powerful supportive "exhibit A" for his colleagues who are inclined to ignore and reject pressure from emergent progressive forces, especially online progressives.

by blueflorida 2007-01-10 10:20AM | 0 recs
Yes!

Lieberman has now become largely irrelevant. Lomont's victory in the primary sent shock waves throught the democratic party and showed how important it was for democrats to stand up against the war. His primary win was a key factor in the fall victory of the democratic party. I too regret very much that he did not win in the Fall. He deserved it; we all deserved it. But life is rarely fair, and Lamont and those who worked so hard for him can take comfort in the fact that they have pushed the Liebermans of the world to the margins of the political debate. I would bet than many of those in Connecticut who voted for him regret it now that they hear him giving such strong support for the war. They probably imagined he had learned a lesson or two and should be given another chance. Well, guess again.

by herodotus 2007-01-10 10:38AM | 0 recs
No, The Worst Is Yet To Come

The worst outcome is this:

  • Lamont Wins Primary;
  • Lieberman Wins General;
  • Lieberman Seethes;
  • Lieberman Backs Bush on his escalation in Iraq in such strong terms that:
  • Lieberman feels personally betrayed by all the Democrats voting for the Kennedy anti-escalation resolution, so:
  • Lieberman caucuses with the Republicans.

    You want a worst case? That's your worst case. Unless the Dems can find a Republican switcher and quickly, we're going to be calling Mitch McConnell "Mr. Majority Leader."

  • by joelspolls 2007-01-10 11:43AM | 0 recs
    Re: No, The Worst Is Yet To Come

    Quick follow-up:
    CTVoter's excellent point about Lieberman no longer being able to make things "bipartisan" by his mere existence, along with the oft-noted phenomenon of his general powerlessness to shape the Senate or national agenda makes his switch more likely, not less. Lieberman is a petulant egocentrist and he will not take well to being irrelevant. If he finds that the only thing he can do to puff himself up and be noticed is to switch control over the Senate, that's what he will do.

    We should keep a very close eye on his voting patterns on bills on various topics (unless of course he bolts within the next two weeks, which is a real possibility) to look for any early cleaving to the Republican line on bills where he would have voted with the Ds in the past.

    Seriously, is there any chance that Susan Collins or another Republican might switch? I have to assume that Reid and others are working on it behind the scenes. Any rumors?

    by joelspolls 2007-01-10 11:54AM | 0 recs
    Re: No, The Worst Is Yet To Come

    I believe someone on DKos did the research on this when Tim Johnson took ill. The Democrats were only able to take control of the Senate when Jim Jeffords defected because they'd specifically negotiated that provision when there was a 50/50 split--ordinarily, the organization of the body cannot be revisited mid-session even if the "majority" comes to have fewer members.

    I'm not imagining this, am I?

    by epenthesis 2007-01-10 12:58PM | 0 recs
    Re: No, The Worst Is Yet To Come

    Equally to the point, switching parties would cost Lieberman dearly--he'd never be able to win in CT again after betraying Democrats so baldly. (Look at past party-switchers and you'll see (a) people joining the party dominant among their constituents, or (b) people from swing states following the shifting political winds, not (c) people going to a party unpopular in their state at a time when it's in decline.)

    And for what? He'd be in the majority, but he's in the majority now. He's known for ragging on Democrats, but it only ever meant anything because he claimed to be one himself. If he left, he'd be another face in the crowd for two years, whereupon Democrats would probably take control again, leaving him with four years in the minority and a decisive boot in '12.

    Not worth it in the slightest. This is not going to happen, though I'm sure he's happy to keep rumors afloat. It's the only thing that keeps him relevant.

    by epenthesis 2007-01-10 01:09PM | 0 recs
    Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

    now that joementum isn't a Dem anymore, the media can't report that Dems are divided on the war when Lieberman is the only exception, a victory indeed!

    by ahf8 2007-01-10 12:53PM | 0 recs
    Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race
    Ugh...I was just starting to edit my Lamont campaign footage at work today and it brought back a lot of memories.
    Still pretty painful how things turned out.
    by Karatist Preacher 2007-01-10 01:36PM | 0 recs
    Joe is finished

    He's been sidelined.  He's listed as Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in newspaper articles, and his rediculous views are no longer seen to be representative of the Democratic Party.  What is he going to do in 2012?  Does he think CT Republicans will just roll over for him again?  He got lucky last year because it became apparent he might lose his primary only after the Republicans had settled on a deeply flawed token candidate.  Joe will be a target from both sides in 2012.  I'd like to see Lamont run again, but if he chooses not to, there are several other Democratic rising stars who would feel no problem running against an independant senator.  Will Joe even try to win the Democratic primary in 2012?  I doubt it.

    by Skaje 2007-01-10 02:42PM | 0 recs
    What an asshole

    George Bush has descended from the throne to annoint Holy Joe leader of the Democrats in their communications with the executive branch. What an asshole.

    by johnalive 2007-01-10 04:32PM | 0 recs
    progressives suck at message, lamont = win

    Of course, ned lost, which sucks.

    however, the progressive message is still to much high faluting upper educated bleating about the facts ... yawn.  

    if we were as effective at selling the truth as the thugs are at selling fu$$ing lies,

    Raygun would have never won, nevermind this criminal son of a bitch.

    beating liberman rattled the crap outta the old guard, although

    it seems from blog reading that I find credible that they didn't do shit for lamont and gave their buddy holy joe a winky-wink.

    the world would be better if Lamont won instead of that sell out son of a bitch, however

    it was a KICK ASS first step.

    rmm.

    by seabos84 2007-01-10 05:04PM | 0 recs
    Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race
    I think you're absolutely f-ing right Matt and I'd like to publically thank you and Tim Tagaris and all the CT bloggers and my old friend Aldon Hynes and Ned Lamont and his family and Bill Hillsman and especially Tom Swan for what y'all accomplished.
    My hands were tied (and busy) working full time for Gov. Warner but I was screaming at my monitor and wishing I could have helped.
    Thanks everyone.
    Sore Loserman can no longer pretend to be a Democrat.
    Sorry for the people of CT, but if you let yourselves get fooled by a known liar like Joe and the corporate media, that's how the cookies crumbles.
    Kinda like my attitude toward the Bush re-elect, lots of us worked our asses off in that cycle and we came damn close, but ultimately I hold the American people as a whole, myself included.
    We'll all be paying for the bad Karma Bush/Cheney have earned forever.
    Let's keep fighting!
    by Texas Nate 2007-01-10 05:54PM | 0 recs
    Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

    Voters in CT did let themselves get fooled, and, they didn't want to lose Joe's influence (as a longstanding Senator).  I think the prevailing belief was "Yeah, he's sort of a jerk, but, he's a jerk we know and who's this Lamont guy, anyway?"

    As for Lieberman "pretending to be a Democrat", I really think that misses the point.  Lieberman isn't pretending anything.  He is delusional, like President Bush.  He switches back and forth (troops are going to be drawn down at the end of this year--last summer, after getting a thumpin in the primary) and his stance now.  There's no contradiction in this for him, because he doesn't recognize what he is saying.  What matters to Joe and George is not what they say, but that THEY said it.  And if THEY said it, it's true.  And we're saddled with this delusion for the next two years.

    by CTvoter 2007-01-11 07:54AM | 0 recs
    Re: Assessing the Lieberman-Lamont Race

    It's not just that Lieberman doesn't matter anymore, it's that he didn't matter in the first place. Having a Democratic majority in the House and Senate matters more, and the real victory was knocking Republicans out of committee chairs.

    by turfgrrl 2007-01-20 05:08PM | 0 recs

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