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When 95% Perfect Isn't Perfect Enough

Last week I discussed Joe Lieberman's near-perfect voting record on "women's choice" issues, as determined by liberal interest groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood who are backing his campaign. The Hartford Courant reports that Lamont supporters gathered yesterday to attack Lieberman on the issue of abortion and gay rights to try and demonstrate that their guy is more than a single-issue candidate opposed to the war in Iraq:

By national standards, Lieberman has a stellar record on gay rights and abortion issues. He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federal PAC and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

"Joe Lieberman works in Washington with the leaders of these organizations every day. They know how difficult it is to get things done in a Republican town, and he's proud to get their support," said Sean Smith, manager of the Lieberman campaign.

When the Human Rights Campaign endorsed him earlier this year, the organization said, "Sen. Lieberman's strong support of fairness for all Americans, gay or straight, dates back three decades to a time when few of his peers were standing by his side."

But that is no longer enough for some activists in Connecticut, where the gay rights movement is eyeing the next prize, gay marriage - a step Lieberman is unwilling to endorse.

And while the abortion-rights group NARAL says Lieberman votes with it 95 percent of the time, some activists cannot forgive Lieberman for refusing to support a filibuster in opposition to the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an abortion opponent. Lieberman did vote against confirmation.

"The bar is higher here," Jepsen said, surveying the Pond House, where dozens of women, and a few men, mingled as they waited for Lamont.

The bar is higher? The bar can't get any higher than demanding absolute ideological purity. Even in deep blue Connecticut the issue of gay marriage is a close call, and Lieberman may be slightly outside of state Democrats on the issue - but not by much. A Quinnipiac poll from last April showed that a slight majority (53%) of Connecticut Democrats supported gay marriage while 42% opposed the idea. Independent voters, by the way, opposed gay marriage by a margin of 52-42, which is identical to the opinion of voters statewide (53 opposed - 42 in favor).

Again, look at Lieberman's voting record as determined by the largest gay & lesbian interest group, the Human Rights Campaign. Out of the seven votes they deemed most important last year, Lieberman voted for the HRC-supported position on six of them. Only eight Democrats in the Senate voted for all seven, putting Lieberman in the same company with Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, and ahead of Senators like Jim Jeffords, Tom Harkin, Dianne Feinstein and, oh yeah, Chris Dodd.

I understand the desire of the Lamont folks to try and make their candidate out to be more than a suit stuffed with antiwar anger and a resentment against Lieberman for not hating George Bush as much as they do, but the effort to attack Lieberman on other issues where he has a solidly progressive voting record makes them look even more like a group of hardcore ideological purists. With the amount of attention this race is getting nationally, I don't think that works to the benefit of the Democratic Party as a whole at all.