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?