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September 02, 2008

Lieberman Set To Address RNC

ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the Democrats Republicans love to hate. Joe Lieberman is the Democrat, albeit a self-described independent Democrat, Republicans actually love. The Connecticut Senator will address the Republican National Convention this evening in support of close friend John McCain.

The address galls Democrats, who still painfully remember Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller's keynote speech to the 2004 Republican convention. Miller retired after giving his speech, but Lieberman still has a Senate career to think about, and with Democrats in the majority, some want to make him pay.

Liberal bloggers and columnists have called for Lieberman to lose his post as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Those calls grew louder when Lieberman heightened attacks on Obama, suggesting at one point two weeks ago that Obama does not put country first. A petition to Senate Democratic leaders has already garnered more than 52,000 signatures.

But it's difficult to punish a Senator when a majority party has just 51 votes, and when Lieberman could as easily caucus with the other party. With Democrats expected to expand their majority in November, though, Lieberman's position in the caucus could become more precarious.

"Joe knows he'll be reevaluated," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told The Scorecard last week at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. "No one knows how to count votes better than I do. And I know there's a lot of difference between 51 and 50. I know there's a lot of difference between 52 and 53."

"It may seem only one [vote] to most people. To me it can be the difference between passing something important -- health care delivery, MediCare, foreign affairs, it can be something dealing with education. So that one vote can make a difference," Reid said.

Lieberman has even expanded his cross-aisle endorsements, offering political and financial support for his committee's ranking Republican, Maine Senator Susan Collins, who faces re-election this year. But he's watching his back, making two high-profile donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee totaling more than $200,000.

For now, with a narrow one-vote majority, Lieberman's status as chairman looks safe. "I'm being very cautious how I treat Joe Lieberman," Reid said. How many new Democratic senators are sworn in come January, though, could imperil that safety, especially if tonight's speech is as sharp as some of Lieberman's previous attacks.