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: