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Lieberman’s Loss: Election 2006 Grows More Complex

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The primary defeat of Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) yesterday by relative upstart Ned Lamont will be debated and analyzed for weeks, but some aspects of it are notable.

It adds weight to those who argue that November’s elections will not be "business as usual" in terms of focusing on local issues. Voters are increasingly worried about Iraq, the war on terror, and immigration.  And despite many pundits giving bloggers credit for Lamont’s win, the reality is that Lamont ran a classic grassroots, retail campaign that reached out to voters through countless small meetings in homes and superb local organization.

What's less clear is what the election in Connecticut will mean in November. An editorial in today's (August 9) New York Times argued that Lieberman’s loss was actually a rebellion by "irate moderates." It was not a rejection of the bipartisanship and centrism that Lieberman represented, but rather, "Connecticut Democrats were reacting to the way those concepts have been perverted by the Bush White House." These moderates are watching with concern as

…the country has seemed to be galloping in a deeply unmoderate direction. A war that began at the president’s choosing has degenerated into a desperate, bloody mess that has turned much of the world against the United States. The administration’s contempt for international agreements, Congressional prerogatives and the authority of the courts has undermined the rule of law abroad and at home.

According to David Esso, AP reporter, translating the Connecticut phenomenon into a Democratic takeover of Congress in November will not be easy. "To triumph in November, Democrats will need the same intensity, including the support of bloggers and groups such as MoveOn.org, that powered Lamont to victory in Connecticut."

The Democrats will focus on the president’s handling of the Iraqi war and the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. "'I think there is huge dissatisfaction with the way the president is handling the war,’ said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chairman of the party's Senate campaign committee. 'People are divided over whether we should have a strong, aggressive foreign policy, but there's very little division even among those for a strong foreign policy that the president has really botched this in terms of having a plan, in terms of a direction, in terms of an endgame.'"

Of course, Republicans are already playing the anti-war activist card and saying that Democrats can’t be trusted with national security issues, which was successful for them in 2002 and 2004, the first two campaigns conducted in the shadow of the terror attacks of 9/11.

"'We'll soon find out just how significant this election is, but it's a problem for Democrats long-term,' the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said after Lamont had won.

'The McGovern wing of the Democrat party seems to have forgotten that we've been on offense for the last five years and that's why we haven't been attacked here at home.'"

Stephanie Griffith, AFP reporter, today reported that Democrats need to capitalize on how fed up voters are with the three-year long US military commitment in Iraq. 

That may not be as big a problem as it was in the past two elections because not only are Americans growing more negative about the war, they’re also less secure about the war on terror.

According a CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation and reported by Reuters, 60 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq and a majority would support a partial withdrawal of troops by year's end.  This is the highest number since the war's beginning.  

Eighty-one percent of Democrats in a Washington Post-ABC News poll said the war was not worth fighting, and a slight majority of Democrats would likely vote against a candidate endorsing the administration's Iraq policy.  

According to the Rasmussen Reports, there’s also a growing fear among Americans that we’re losing the war on terrorism and that fear has grown by five percentage points in just one month.  During the 2004 election, over half of Americans believed we were winning the war on terror. 

Collectively, these numbers document one of the most pessimistic evaluations of the conflict we’ve found in the past two-and-a-half years. Not coincidentally, election 2006 polling trends have moved away from Republicans during the same time frame.  Just 31% of Americans now rate President Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq as good or excellent. That’s down from 36% a month ago.  Fifty-two percent (52%) now believe the situation in Iraq will get worse over the next six months. Just 46% held that view a month ago. The percentage of those indicating the situation will improve fell six points to 24%.

Looking longer-term, 50% believe America’s mission in Iraq will ultimately be judged a failure with only 32% believing it will be a success.  Just 35% now say the United States is safer today than it was pre-9/11, a decline of seven points over the past month.

There continue to be some who claim that the mid-term elections will be based on local concerns, but, increasingly, Americans are saying otherwise.  The question remains: Can the Democrats paint the Republicans as bumbling idiots who have dragged us into an unwinnable war and destroyed America's image overseas …or can the Republicans paint the Democrats as anti-Americans, soft on terror, and untrustworthy to handle issues of such import?

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About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • Matt

    The election is not complex at all. Lieberman will be reelected this fall, the Republicans will retain control of both houses of Congress, and Lamont will only get to see the inside of the Senate with a visitor’s pass.

    Lamont, the nonentitiy, was the beneficiary of low turnoout, of misrepresenting Lieberman’s record, of antisemitism, and of McCain-Feingold, limiting donations to other candidates while allowing him to spend all of his money he wanted.

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    can you cite the exact turnout rate on Tuesday vs. the normal turnout for a primary election in Connecticut. One national news service I saw said that the turnout was actually quite high in the primary.

    Also if you have a reference for all the other stuff, please let me know. Thanks

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Chance: Click on the links for all the specific polling data and interviews. It should all be there. And yes, I do remember reading that turnout was higher than normal for a primary race, but I’d have to dig those numbers out.

    My interest, though, is less with Leiberman, because Matt’s right, he will likely win in November, but the implications nationally. That’s where it becomes very complex.

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    Mark,
    my questions were actually directed at Matt. I’d like to see where his claim of a low turnout came from.

    I have no idea who will win in a 3 way race in November. IT may depend on how the party handles it.

  • Nancy

    Hopefully, these primary losses by incumbents augur very, VERY ill for all incumbents come November, and what it means is the voters are madder than hell and aren’t going to take it any more from arrogant, self-important, overpaid & overprivileged fools who think they’re entitled to a permanent living at public expense while they continue to ignore the very people who sent them there.

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    “Lamont, the nonentitiy, was the beneficiary of low turnoout, of misrepresenting Lieberman’s record, of antisemitism, and of McCain-Feingold, limiting donations to other candidates while allowing him to spend all of his money he wanted.”

    None of this makes any sense.

  • Nancy

    Baloney. Lieberman spent plenty; as much as he wanted; congress made sure that they – the incumbents – would never be restrained or put to disadvantage in any way on that score. They always do.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    In a way Mark, it gives us all the freedom to relax and finally say that we didn’t like Lieberman on the Gore ticket, and a lot of us blame him and his right of center stands on Gore losing in 2000

    Whew that felt good…
    and liberating too!

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Jet, sorry, but Leiberman didn’t lose it for Gore, Gore lost it for himself with a lackluster campaign, terrible advisors, and no message whatsoever. I’m not a great fan of Leiberman, but people don’t vote for against a presidential candidate because of the VP.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Well, I guess we all have our own opinions…

    Indigenous varicose
    Jet

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Opinions? Opinions? Why, you young whippersnapper, I’ll have you know that I rely on inunendo, obfuscation, and falsification to arrive at my unassailable proofs. why just ask Gonzo.

    Opinions. harmuph.

    Now

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Mark do me a favor and jump on my pending latest article on congressional french fries-you’ll love it!

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    I saw it and haven’t had a chance to read anything on BC except to edit. But I’ll get to it tomorrow.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Clavos

    Mark #11,

    What about artistic verisimilitude and prestidigitation?

  • Clavos

    Oh, and hyperbole??

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    I didn’t want to sound pretention, Clavos, so I refrained from adding those–but you are perspecatioius…those are essential ingredients of any truth teller.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Er, Mark, “sound pretention” & “perspecatioius” – maybe that’s “In Jameson spellious”.

    Har Har.

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Mr. Rose, I’ll have know that’s the original correct spelling…in Lithuanian…sigh.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    I hope you edit better than you type, Mark, that’s two in a row!

    lol

  • Clavos

    Shoot, Mark, I thought you were carrying the joke forward in #16. Maybe a little less Jameson and a little more Decaf?

    Or, better yet, don’t post at 0542? :>)

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Clavos, it wasn’t my idea to be up that late. Sometimes the brain is busy dancing away and just won’t go to bed, which leaves you in a somewhat bleary state the next day. But you’re right. Posting is a bad idea at that time of night…or morning.

    In Decaf Veritas

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    OH LORD NO!!! Not another case of Restless Leg Syndrome.

    Incongruous Varicose

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com Mark Schannon

    Jet, yes, my brains are in my big toe…what can I tell you.

    In Exhaustion Veritas

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Somehow I suspected that…

    Inconspicuous Vacation

  • Liberal

    “Lamont, the nonentitiy, was the beneficiary of low turnoout…”

    Um, it was the highest turnout for a primary in CT history.