If He Wins, Who Will Lieberman Really Caucus With?

As the battle for control of the Senate becomes much closer, the issue over who Joe Lieberman, if he wins, will caucus with after the election looms much larger. This is an extremely murky matter with several possible scenarios, and the more you look into it, the more complicated it becomes.

Lieberman claims to have been promised seniority after the election if he wins. However, seniority is determined by a closed-door, straight majority vote of the entire caucus. Given that over two-thirds of the current Democratic caucus is supporting Lamont, and simply given what I have heard from high-ranking Senate staffers, it is far from clear whether a victorious Lieberman would have enough votes to keep his seniority.

Further, since current polling shows a senate with 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman would also potentially have the ability to flip control of the Senate if he chooses to caucus with Republicans. Back in 2001, the Democratic caucus gladly gave seniority to Jim Jeffords when he left the Republican caucus in order to gain control of the chamber. That was the price to pay for control, and after six years in the minority, the Democratic caucus was more than happy to make that compromise. It isn't hard to imagine that if Republicans find themselves one seat in the minority after the elections next month that they will also gladly grant Lieberman seniority in order to retake control of the chamber.

With these two factors in mind, we are left with several possible scenarios if Lieberman wins. Will Lieberman stay with a caucus that strips him of his seniority, even if it means flipping control of the Senate to Republicans? Will Lieberman stay with a caucus that ends up in the minority? Will the Democratic caucus kowtow to Lieberman simply in order to stay in the majority? Of all the possibilities, the most important scenario is if Democrats take majority control of the Senate by a single seat, but Lieberman is stripped of his seniority for running against Democratic nominee Ned Lamont. Will Lieberman caucus with Republicans who promise to give him seniority? I think the Lieberman campaign needs to answer this question.

What will Lieberman do if he loses seniority but Democrats control the Senate by one seat? Will the Democratic caucus cave on important matter pertaining to Iraq and oversight of the executive branch simply in order to maintain a one-seat majority? Is it worth caving into Lieberman in order to maintain one-seat control? Is there any way we could conduct a whip count online to determine how many Democrats in the 110th Senate will vote to give or strip Lieberman of his seniority if he wins?

As control of the Senate increasingly is thrown up in the air, these are all questions that need speedy answers. Most importantly, Lieberman needs to say what he will do if Democrats win control of the Senate by one seat by he is stripped of seniority. Of course, the easiest way to solve this problem would be for Ned Lamont to win in Connecticut. Please, get involved in Lamont's campaign in any way you can.

Democrats Inching Closer In The Senate Too

As I reported in Breaking Blue a couple of hours ago, for the first time ever Democrats now hold leads in enough Senate races to take narrow control. Here are the five-poll averages from Pollster.com on the thirteen races I still have on the board:
  • Minnesota: Klobuchar (D) 51%--40% Kennedy (R)
  • Washington: Cantwell (D) 50%--41% McGavick (R)
  • Pennsylvania: Casey (D) 48%--39% Santorum (R)
  • Maryland: Cardin (D) 47%--40% Steele (R)
  • Montana: Tester (D) 49%--43% Burns (R)
  • Rhode Island: Whitehouse (D) 46%--40% Chafee (R)
  • Ohio: Brown (D) 47%--42% DeWine (R). Note: this average reflects the new Survey USA poll on the race.
  • New Jersey: Menendez (D) 45%--41% Kean (R)
  • Tennessee: Ford (D) 47%--44% Corker (R)
  • Missouri: McCaskill (D) 46%--44% Talent (R). Note: this average reflects the new Survey USA poll on the race.
  • Virginia: Allen (R) 48%--42% Webb (D)
  • Arizona: Kyl (R) 49%--40% Pederson (D)
  • Connecticut: Lieberman (CfL) 50%--39% Lamont (D)
If these polls accurately reflected the final results, that would make the Senate 49-49-2, Depending on what Lieberman does, that would be enough for a Democratic majority, but not quite enough for Democratic control. It also is pretty unlikely that Democrats would pull out all of these close races, and in these averages Democrats lead in all of the four closest states.

Still, for Democrats to have drawn even with Republicans at 49 apiece is a landmark in this campaign. This is the first time during the entire two-year cycle that Democrats have pulled that one off. While this is our highwater mark so far, there is certainly no guarantee it will stay this good. Further, at the risk of tempting hubris, I know that most, if not all of us, would actually like to see our situation get even better. Either way you look at it, there is no reason to be complacent. Still, it is nice to look at these numbers and see that we are inching forward in almost every close race.

DSCC's George Allen Ad

As Jerome notes over in Breaking Blue, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has decided to invest close to $1 million in the Virginia Senate campaign on advertisements going after GOP Senator George Allen Junior.

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The ad is, I think, successful on a number of levels. First, it gets out a lot of information about Allen's voting record, pointing out some of his more outrageous stances, such as those on the minimum wage and body armor. Yout the real success of the ad lies in the fact that it uses these issues as a cover to go after Allen for his racially insensitive language, most notably targeting the "macaca" comment.

In order for Jim Webb to win this year, it is assumed that he will need to trounce Allen in the less culturally conservative areas of the state, particularly in Northern Virginia. This ad goes a long way towards achieving this end by reminding these voters, many of whom are averse to the type of racially-charged politics that once played (and perhaps still does) in other areas of the South, that a vote for Senator Allen is a vote for someone who, at best, is prone to making statements clearly offensive to racial minorities and, at worst, is a racist himself.

It's not a perfect ad, but it does the job it intends to.

Update [2006-10-10 11:40:3 by Jonathan Singer]: And, as an aside, Michael Forsythe and Miles Weiss of Bloomberg news report, "Stock options that Senator George Allen described as worthless were worth as much as $1.1 million at one point, according to a review of Senate disclosure forms and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings."

There's more...

Webb Performs Well at Final Debate

I'm not sure if any of you had the opportunity to catch the final televised debate of the Virginia Senate campaign on C-SPAN (or the Montana Senate debate that followed on the network -- I just had an enjoyable two hours of television viewing time), but from my vantage point three thousand miles away it appeared that Democratic candidate Jim Webb made the most of his opportunity to get out his message to voters in the Commonwealth deciding between him and his Republican opponent, Senator George Allen Junior.

For those who missed it, Lowell over at Raising Kaine provides a blow-by-blow description of the debate. I'd like to focus on one of Webb's answer's in particular, though, one that brilliantly cut through Republican spin on national security and the Iraq War.

After Sen. Allen attempted to tie the Iraq War to the so-called War on Terror and parrot the most oft-used GOP talking points on the war, Secretary Webb got up and delivered a stinging blog to Allen: Instead of throwing out "propagandistic phrases" like "stay the course" and "cut and run", the debate should actually center on figuring out the best policy to alleviate the problems on the ground in the country. Webb said it better than that -- I am just paraphrasing generally from memory and from Lowell's account -- but that was the gist of it.

And it gets to the root of one of the most fundamental differences between Sen. Allen and Sec. Webb in this campaign: substance. Over the course of his two plus decades in public life, George Allen Jr. has cultivated an image of himself as a down home country boy-cum-western cowboy that has resonated with Virginian voters. One need only look at his vote totals in past elections to see the effectiveness of this effort.

But over the past two months, or so, as the media have finally begun to raise a skeptical eye towards Sen. Allen and ask the tough questions about his actual beliefs and history it has become clear to Virginians that he is a man of little substance -- and that which is there isn't necessarily appealing.

Sec. Webb, on the other hand, is pure substance. He might have come off a tad too self-assured and know-it-all-ish when he asked Sen. Allen about his stance towards the situation in the Shikoku Islands, an issue that I and likely the vast majority of Virginians did not know about prior to the debate. But on the whole, Sec. Webb appeared to be a reasonable candidate well qualified and able to serve in the United States Senate. And if there were any remaining voters who still questioned whether Webb would be a great Senator before the debate, there are likely fewer now.

There's more...

Updates And Thoughts Before Traveling

I have to catch a train back to Philly in about an hour, but here are some quick updates.
  • I have updated the Senate forecast. I still see a 50-48-2 Senate, in favor of Republicans.

  • I have an article on blogging over at the BBC.

  • In light of the various post-election discussions that have started to crop up on MyDD, and contrary to the opinion that right now we have to focus entirely on winning the election, it needs to be said that is not too early to start talking about what to do after the election if Democrats win the House, even if this divides us in some ways. This is primarily for two reasons:
    • 1. The post-media narrative on the election will be pretty much set in stone within one week after the election. In 2004, the "values voters" narrative for Republicans was terrible, as it made them look like extremists for the next two years, and helped the media accurately describe the way Republicans govern: by pandering to their hard-right base. This has hurt them not just over the past two years, but will continue to hurt them indefinitely into the future. The post-2004 election narrative has branded Bush, and by extension the Republican Party, as pandering to, and captive of, extremism. If we win, we need a positive media narrative about a populist uprising against this extremism. Pointing out the ways that the people-powered progressive movement made a huge difference is thus an important element of the media narrative we need following a win, but not the only element.
    • 2. The leadership and seniority battles in the Democratic caucus will be over very quickly following the elections. If we are not prepared for those battles now, we will not be able to have any influence on how those battles turn out. As with the post-election media narrative, we can't just focus exclusively on winning, and then watch our own leadership turn in an unfavorable direction just days after the election because we weren't prepared to play a role in the leadership campaigns.
    It is not too early to plan a course of post-election, pre-legislative action if Democrats win this year, and it is anything but irresponsible to do so. You have to be prepared for every contingency, and waking up with a happy hangover on November 8th is not a plan.
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