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Lamont is Not the November Front-Runner

By Ross Kaminsky

In the short hours after Joe Lieberman became the fourth incumbent Senator to lose a primary in the last quarter century, some of the biggest names in the Democratic Party are lining up behind the victorious anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont.

Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd, John Kerry, and even Lieberman's "friend" Hillary Clinton are supporting Lamont. Part of the reason for abandoning the man who has consistently been one of the classiest and most principled members of the Democratic party is simply that he lost, and that the small-d democratic process has chosen someone else to represent the big-D Dems.

But that in itself might not have been enough to get these people to turn on their long-time colleague and "friend". The thing that pushed them to support Lamont is the perception of Lieberman's closeness to President Bush as well as his support of Bush's war efforts. Among their far-left base, Bush is toxic.

The Democrats realize that at least early in the game it is the Deaniac anti-war fringe of the party that is motivated, getting out to vote, and giving money. They must and will pander to these people which will require the Party to start moving even further to the left.

Hillary Clinton will continue to be a perfect example of this. She has been one of the more hawkish Democrats regarding the war on terror and the war in Iraq. But of late, she has become much more shrill in her criticisms of the war in general and Donald Rumsfeld in particular. I have no doubt that her clear shift to the left is pure political calculation.

The Democrats will continue such calculation as they lean on Lieberman to give up his run as an Independent. Lieberman, however, who filed to run under the banner of a newly-created political party within hours of losing the primary seems steadfast in his intention to run.

Democrats will work hard to beat Lieberman, and you will probably read a lot from the mainstream media and other Democrat outlets that Lamont is the favorite. They may even believe it because they live in such an insular world: In leftist havens in the northeast, it is actually hard for people to believe there are Republicans or conservatives out there. (Like the person who said "I don't know how Nixon could have won...nobody I know voted for him.")

A perfect example comes from one Joshua Micah Marshall writing for Time Magazine. In his piece "Lieberman Lost the Old-fashioned Way", Marshall argues that while the Iraq war and the effect of bloggers helped defeat Lieberman, the primary "ailment" which brought him down was that he "got his head lost in the clouds of national politics and lost touch with his constituents."

It is a subtly stunning claim. First, Marshall is saying that someone who actually thinks about the issues rather than voting as a pure partisan is "lost". Second, particularly galling given that Lieberman is currently the favorite to win the general election, Marshall is arguing that Lieberman's constituents were only Democrats and not all residents of Connecticut. Even among Democrat primary voters, i.e. the most left-leaning of the state's voters, Lieberman only ended up losing by about 52% to 48%, much closer than any of the most recent polls. All else being equal, Lieberman doesn't need very many Republicans to win as a third-party candidate in the general election. Mr. Marshall, who will Lieberman's constituents be when that happens?

Marshall represents everything that is wrong with the Democratic Party (although I must say that given the opportunity the Republicans would probably act as badly). The essence of his position is that Lieberman lost because he A) thought about things and B) didn't represent only his state's Democrats.

It is this sort of narrow thinking that will keep Democrats believing Lamont will win the general election. And indeed he might; many things can happen in three months. But if the race were held today, I believe Lieberman would win by a wide margin. And at least today, the view of Lieberman as underdog is not supported by people who are willing to risk money on it. On one of my favorite betting sites, tradesports.com, Lieberman is roughly a 55-45 favorite over Lamont.

Data from 2004 show that Democrats have a 50% registration edge over Republicans in Connecticut at 34% to 22%. But the unaffiliated/independent registration is larger than either at 44%. Interestingly, there has been a consistent two-decade long trend of decline in registration in both major parties and increase in unaffiliated voters. A substantial majority of these independents are, in my view, likely to vote for Lieberman. Many Republicans will as well. Combined with roughly half of the Democratic Party, it's more than enough to give him the victory. Ideological liberals like Marshall won't understand it because they think the world revolves around them, that others are not smart enough to vote, and that if somehow we find our way to the voting booth our votes should not count. Luckily for us, he's wrong.

Ross Kaminsky blogs at Rossputin.com

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