Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman Defeated By Lamont In Connecticut Democratic Primary

The result in the Connecticut Democratic primary was close, but the anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont, still prevailed over the three-term incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic vice presidential nominee, by 52% to 48%.

Lieberman immediately said he would continue to run as an independent candidate, setting up a three-man race, including a weak Republican, Alan Schlesinger.

But the shock waves from Tuesday's primary, if past experience is any guide, may go far. Even should Lamont falter in the general election, as Republican and independent voters come into the fray, he has still proved that as the Iraq war seems endless, a sizable proportion of Americans are so fed up with it that they are prepared to vote on that issue alone. Lamont, in a most important way, was essentially a single-issue candidate.

With most new candidates, such as Lamont, they prosper after proving their viability in a primary. In the South, where there are many runoff campaigns, this is seen time and again, that new support flocks to the fresh face in the second round.

So I do not downplay Lamont's chances to be the next senator from Connecticut. Lieberman has a rough road ahead. He is going to be under constant pressure as to just why he is running, after losing the primary, and he is going to be hard put to hold the Democrats he had in the primary, if he is seen as going after Republican and independent votes in the general election. It is bound to be embarrassing to Lieberman as outside Democrats, perhaps with their eye on the next presidential campaign, come into the state to campaign for Lamont, who can now move toward the center himself to possibly widen his appeal. Already, on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, and senators Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Frank Lautenberg and Chuck Schumer, have come out for Lamont, and Sen. Hilary Clinton, seemed to be urging Lieberman to reconsider his independent candidacy. She too said she will back the nominee, Lamont.

It is possible there may be a turn in the war, although this seems for the moment unlikely, and it's possible some national Democrats may fear a Lamont victory as moving the presidential situation toward the party's McGovernite left, still perceived as a weak position nationally. But Lieberman is going to have to make this argument, and I'm not sure of its effectiveness.

The vote in Connecticut, which is by no means usually a very progressive state, only hints at what election results may develop in the Northeast and the West, the blue states that voted for Al Gore and John Kerry in the last two elections. Here, the Connecticut result may portend a weakening of Sen. Hilary Clinton and a strengthening of such possible candidacies as Gore and Kerry in key primary states.

New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans both have shown their independence in the past. It is going to be an interesting first primary there in 2008.

The main thing is, the country has grown exceedingly pessimistic about the war. Hawks such as myself believe the loss of the war, a retreat from Iraq, would be calamitous for U.S. interests, but that may not be the conclusion of the electorate.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday trying to make the point that Lamont was a dangerous leftist. That may not have the resonance with the voters this fall that it had in the past.

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