A warning bell for many moderate Democrats is tolling tonight in Connecticut. The Washington Post is reporting that three term U.S. Senator, Joe Lieberman is trailing Democratic primary challenger Ned Lamont by about 7 percentage points with 38% of precincts reporting. As of the time of this post the lead is 4 points with 84% of precincts reporting.
This closely watched campaign, that has swung steadily in Lamonts favor in recent months, is being seen largely as a referendum on the war in Iraq. To be fair, Lieberman has been somewhat critical of the conduct of the war, but no more so than many Republicans such as John McCain. What has been missing, though, is outspoken criticism and strongly pushing alternatives or changes in direction such as those offered by Jack Murtha and John Kerry. Additionally, as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com, much of the rhetoric that Lieberman used in stating his position and criticizing many other Democrats over the last 2 years, seems to very closely parallel the Karl Rove authored Republican talking points about the war:
It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years. And that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril. (CNN, 12/6/05)As Greenwald states, "That is the sort of 'Democrats are allies of our enemies' rhetoric that one expects to find in Rush Limbaugh's daily demonizing rants or on Michelle Malkin's blog, not in a speech from a Democratic senator." Clearly, Lieberman is Zell Miller 'Lite'. We are a very long way from the moderate 'third way' philosophy of the DLC and Bill Clinton of the 1990's. Indeed, even the golden touch of a Bill Clinton appearance with Lieberman at a campaign stop recently didn't seem to have much of an effect.
My point here is that the home front affects the battle front. Politics as usual at home can and will have unusually bad consequences in Iraq. It encourages our enemies to believe they are succeeding in their attempts to influence our policy. They clearly seek by their hostage taking, by their desecration of the bodies of our dead, and by their terrorism to break the will of the people of America. (Brookings Institute, April 2004)
If Lamont wins the primary, as all signs point to, it raises many questions for the general election. Lieberman has already stated that if he lost the primary, he would still run as an independent. Lieberman's chances in a three way race are probably fairly good, as he would draw many moderate Republican and independent voters. If the race is close, one would hope that Lieberman might consider dropping out and supporting Lamont if the alternative is losing the seat to a Republican. However Lieberman has shown in the past that he is willing to put his own interests ahead of his party's. In the 2000 election when Lieberman was Gore's running mate, he still ran for his Senate seat. If they had won the election (oh wait, they did), Lieberman would have had to vacate his Senate seat. John Rowland, the Republican governor at the time (he moved on to prison afterward for accepting illegal favors), would've appointed a new Senator, who surely would have been a Republican. Lieberman could've chosen to avoid this possibility by letting another Democrat run for the seat and campaigning for him, but he didn't.