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The Connecticut senatorial race Jul 10

In an article about political bloggers (via Lynne Featherstone), The Observer this Sunday slipped in this short paragraph:

In the US, the Connecticut Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman has seen his yawning lead in opinion polls suddenly slashed in the run-up to November’s elections by support from anti-war political bloggers for his little-known Republican challenger.

As I was planning to blog this anyway, I noticed the obvious clanger: I have no idea whether the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, is anti-war (there would be nothing new in a local candidate distancing himself from his party leader’s stance to gain electoral benefit), but left-wing political bloggers are not backing him against the Lieberman. Rather, they are are pushing an alternative Democrat candidate, Ned Lamont, in the primary to be held next month. They have labelled Lieberman a de facto Republican and cited exchanges such as this one:

Harwood: He used the old Ronald Reagan line, “There you go again,” to Ned Lamont and he used the strategy that George W. Bush used against John Kerry in 2004…

Noron: Is that going to work for him, adopting these Republican strategies when in many ways the heart of this debate is that Lieberman is too much like Bush…

These bloggers insist that Lieberman’s pro-war stance is only one of their complaints. One of the issues on which he has riled Democrat activists was Bush’s plans for social security reform:

I lost faith in Lieberman during the social security debate, when he was the last Democrat to fall in line with the rest of the entire caucus (including people like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu), and only did so when it was painfully obvious that the president’s efforts to destroy social security where completely dead.

I even told that to a Time reporter, but of course that didn’t make the story because it didn’t fit the narrative that Lieberman’s problems stem only from his war stance.

Lamont himself, from the little I’ve read, doesn’t seem a particularly impressive candidate, but a lack of polish is quickly identified as “anti-politician” appeal, and it’s much more about getting Lieberman out:

I don’t think Lamont was good enough to help himself, but Lieberman may have been bad enough to hurt himself. This debate was all about the undecided voter and the indecisively-committed-to-Lieberman voter. Lamont’s performance would not have moved many of those people into his column, but Lieberman’s sneering, how-dare-you-challenge-me style might move a few voters away from him.

You can read more about how Lieberman has offended the self-proclaimed “netroots” of the party here.

Lieberman, for his part, has added fuel to the fire by insisting that he will run in the general election regardless of the result of the primary – as an independent (or, in his words, a “petitioning Democrat“) if necessary. Some fellow Democrats who support Lieberman, such as Hilary Clinton, have covered themselves by promising to back whoever gets the Democrat nomination; others are loyal to Lieberman, and it’s becoming divisive:

It is the breaking into the open of a war between establishment insiders and the base of the party. This war is beyond ideology, it features progressive darlings such as Boxer going out for Lieberman, not merely pro forma supporting him. It featured a month long weasel word fest from Senator Chuck Schumer about whether the DSCC would back Lieberman if he ran as an independent.

It is, so the left-wing bloggers tell us, the top of the party versus the activist base, the mainstream media versus the new medium.

It will be an interesting primary (and subsequent election) to watch, and a really test of the online community, which has successfully raised thousands for Lamont’s campaign. Are those Democrat voters who will take part in the primary as switched on to the debate as the activist bloggers? And do the rest of the voters in Connecticut actually like having a right-wing Democrat as senator? It could be a hard lesson for Lieberman about the importance of not neglecting your activist base – something the Tories and Labour in particularly need to attend to, although it’s important for the LibDems to bear in mind too – or it could turn out that the bloggers represent only a small, vocal minority.

Update: Via the Daily Kos, a self-deprecating ad from Ned Lamont.

3 Responses

  1. Lamont has had a lot of support from the Democracy For America lot (formerly Dean For America) who hate Lieberman with a passion.

    They are strongly backing Howard Dean\\\’s \\\’51 state strategy\\\’ which aims to revitalise the Democratic Party across the US by going in hard against Bush & Co.

    They are backing a load of grassroots candidates in all sorts of political races and are showing some signs of success.

  2. 2

    Lieberman sounds a bit more like a liberal… that would be the problem then :-p
    *grumbles on about the perversion of the word liberal by the US left*

  3. 3

    Yes, I\’ve been wary of taking a side because of that. And if it\’s like a New Labour vs. Old Labour battle – well, neither of those is paricularly liberal as we think of it.