Monday, April 11, 2005

Lieberman in Trouble with Town Committees?

Interesting post by Myrna Watanabe, Harwinton's Democratic town chairwoman, on Swing State Project. Here's the upshot:

If the state Democratic convention were held right now, Lieberman wouldn't have the votes to get the nomination without doing some very, very, very serious arm twisting--and even then he might not have the votes. Maybe the population still likes Joe Lieberman, but his friends in the Democratic Party are having second or third thoughts about him.

Interesting. Essentially, the writer is claiming that Lieberman has lost so much support among town committees that his renomination is in serious doubt. Yet he does well among Democrats in general (66% approve) according to the latest poll, so one of two things is happening here:
1. Town committees are out of step with the Democratic public. It could be. The town committees are comprised of the most loyal and hardcore of partisans, most of whom despise Lieberman for his support of the war and what they see as disloyal remarks and actions towards the party. Democrats statewide may not share their sentiments.
2. The poll is for some reason not catching Democrats turning against Lieberman. This is in fact what Wantanabe suggests:

If I were in Lieberman's shoes, I wouldn't get too comfy with the poll numbers because they do not detect the undercurrent of dislike and mistrust.

Possibly. I'd like to see a few other polls corroborate the Q-poll's findings. However, the numbers in this particular poll don't find that "undercurrent" anywhere, as 65% of Democrats said Lieberman deserves re-election, 67% said he has strong leadership qualities, 68% said he cares about the needs of people like them, 63% said he shares their views on issues they care about, 69% said he pays attention to Connecticut issues and only 28% of Democrats said he was too conservative, while 59% said he was "about right". But again, the poll could be skewed. More evidence is obviously needed.

Both possibilities could have a certain amount of truth to them. Perhaps the sentiment against Lieberman is a bit stronger than the poll suggests, and perhaps the town committees are reacting to Lieberman more strongly than their constituents.

So what does this mean for Lieberman? Potentially a lot, but probably not much. If a theoretical primary challenger could count on the support of the state's Democratic machinery, the prospect of running against a formerly unbeatable incumbent senator doesn't look quite so daunting. Perhaps a big-name Democrat (Blumenthal? Maloney?) will be lured into the race.

However, there is no real reason to believe Lieberman won't get the endorsement of the party until a majority of town chairs come out against him, and, even if they do, Lieberman may very well have enough popularity among Democrats to win a primary against the endorsed candidate.

If town chairs really feel this strongly about Lieberman, they should give the Courant or the Register a call and say so. But I have a feeling that most will wait to see whether Lieberman comes crawling back, which he probably will to some degree. Also, local committees will think more and more of winning an election than they will about ideology as November 2006 draws nearer, at which point they will sigh, swear, grit their teeth and support Joe. By next year, I imagine that the town chairs will be singing his praises once more.


tkd27 said...

I would bet that a fair number of those democrats in the Q poll would change their opinion if they saw some ads highlighting the votes and positions of Leiberman... things that WE all know about because we follow this stuff, but things that they might not because the only news source they have is the New Haven Register.

If I was Leiberman, I'd be nervous at the thought of a contentious primary with another Dem... people will learn things about him that they do not currently know.

Genghis Conn said...

Posting for this topic was down yesterday... seems to be back now.

I think a lot of people feel they know Lieberman because he's been around for so long, and because of his national run. It's possible that a few specific, well-targeted ads on some of the more obnoxious things he's done would drag his numbers down... but whether they'd hit 50% is anyone's guess.

dumbruss said...

One would think that in a state like Connecticut which voted for Kerry overwhelmingly and with the ever-increasing unpopularity of Bush, all that a challenger would need to do is repeatedly run an ad showing Lieberman getting smooched by Bush with some disucssion of Lieberman's voting record.