On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that "Critics of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's independent run to keep his job attacked on two fronts Monday, with one group asking an elections official to throw him out of the Democratic Party and a former rival calling on state officials to keep his name off the November ballot." Lieberman staffers have of course identified these moves as dirty politics.
But is it unreasonable to ask election officials to throw Senator Lieberman out of the Democratic Party, or is this merely a dangerous request? Henry Lowendorf, of The New Haven Peace Council, underscored the fact that "[t]here was an open vote, and he was voted out. He joined a different party."
True enough. Though there are several Democrats in Washington who have openly declared their support for Senator Lieberman, he did lose in his party's state primary race and could technically be thrown out of the party if he chooses to run against the official Democratic candidate. But what if Senator Lieberman is expelled from his party and goes on to win in November as currently expected? Having been summarily rejected by his party, would he be as inclined to caucus with them in the future?
Which is likely why John Orman, a Fairfield University poli-sci professor who gave up on his challenge to Lieberman last year, filed a complaint on Monday asking that Lieberman's name not be included on the state ballot. The Post notes that Orman has accused Senator Lieberman of creating "a fake political party." "He's doing anything he can to get his name on the ballot."
Certainly he is. And as long as it is legal, why should anyone have a problem with this? It seems to me that Mr. Orman himself was doing anything he could to get his name on the ballot not that long ago. Unfortunately, he raised about $1000 to Lieberman's $3.8 million in the same period of time.
Which underscores the fact that Lamont's ability to launch his campaign was due in major part to his ability to utilize his personal fortune to fund his campaign. For all the fervor anti-war activists bring to the table, rarely are there funds attached.
As I noted in a recent post, Lieberman will, at the very least be able to match Lamont in dollar-for-dollar campaign spending. But with Lieberman still in the race, Lamont must now run to the center and shed the one-dimensional stigma he gained as the "anti-war" candidate. Lamont won the Democratic primary with only 15% of the voting population in Connecticut, but did so narrowly, and recent polls show Lieberman with a 12-point lead among likely voters.
At this point, Connecticut voters know Lamont as well as they do Lieberman, so a 12-point spread will not be easy to erase. And the senator is almost certain to receive a significant level of support from Connecticut Republicans who are well aware of the fact that their candidate has no chance of winning in the upcoming election.
Meanwhile, CBS News notes that Senator Lieberman has been retooling his campaign for the upcoming election. A recent statement from the senator notes that his new hires are "not just among the best in their respective businesses, but they bring a deep knowledge of Connecticut from across the political spectrum, which will be essential to our effort to build a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents."
CBS News outlines the Senator's recent campaign changes and quotes Lamont's campaign spokeswoman, Liz Dupont-Diehl who asks "[t]hese new appointments beg the question: Who is the real Joe Lieberman?" But such comments serve only to underscore the political naivete of Lamont and company.
Politicians often make such staff changes, or shuffle staff around to bring in new players with critical areas of expertise. Senator Kerry and Howard Dean did much the same during their primary and general election campaigns in 2003 and 2004.
In light of recent poll results — and naive comments from a certain campaign spokeswoman — Lamont would be well advised to consider some of his own staff changes. And Speaking of Lamont, some recent changes in his rhetoric beg the question: Who is the real Ned Lamont?
As James Taranto of OpinionJournal noted last week, Lamont has done an abrupt about-face on some of the issues, most notably in the area of universal health care, first criticizing and then echoing Lieberman's own stand on the issue within a span of three months.
Unfortunately, rhetoric changes will likely not fool voters. Extensive press coverage of Mr. Lamont's during the primary made him a national figure and left little doubt that his is the anti-war candidacy. Despite what Democrats continue to believe, an anti-war message is not the silver bullet election issue they've been seeking.
Which is why anti-war activists are now seeking to expel Lieberman from the Democratic Party and, if possible, to keep him off of the ballots in November. Such tactics will likely backfire, further alienating the swing voters whom Lamont so desperately needs if he is to overcome a 12-point deficit by November.