Now it gets interesting. The Democratic Convention is scheduled for Saturday, May 20th. That's 68 days away--68 days in which Lamont must draw as many delegates to his side as possible, and in which Joe Lieberman must do all he can to make sure that Lamont comes in under 15%.
To get the 250 or so delegates he'll need to force an August primary, Lamont will have to convince town committees that he's credible and viable. To do that, he'll need media coverage and exposure. Today's article in the Hartford Courant, in which Lamont charms a group of surly Democrats to his side, is a good start:
Ned Lamont stood awkwardly in Dos Amigos, a Mexican restaurant on the commercial strip along Route 202, looking for even one friend during the dinner hour.
The progressive group that had invited Lamont to come to the Northwest Hills and talk about his opposition to the war and his challenge of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman couldn't be found. The eatery had no private room for them, anyway.
His would-be audience was unimpressed. Lamont got hard looks from one of the first to arrive: John L. Miller, 75, who made the winding, 30-minute drive from Cornwall with Paul H. Baren, 81, and Stephen H. Senzer, 76, to see if he is worth their time.
"We're not about to throw in with someone that has no chance," said Miller, who intensely dislikes Lieberman. "I was hoping to be more impressed with the planning."
Lamont implored them to stay.
And an hour later, after a free-wheeling discussion that quickly moved beyond the war in Iraq to the Patriot Act, universal health care, the environment and the economy, Lamont would have some recruits for a campaign that officially opens today. (Pazniokas)
If Lamont wants to make the argument that Lieberman is somehow out of touch with Connecticut Democrats, this article is a great start. Here we see Ned Lamont sitting down to talk with regular folks at a crummy Mexican restaurant in Torrington, and winning them over after speaking with them for over an hour.
Lieberman, by contrast, only appears in the article by proxy:
"We're going to run a campaign. We're going to have him here and be doing this the old-fashioned way: He's going to be asking people for their vote," said Sean Smith, recently hired to run the Lieberman campaign. "He ran for vice president. He ran for president. He hasn't really had a dialogue with Connecticut voters about Connecticut issues in a while. He is looking forward to it." (Pazniokas)
The stark contrast drawn between Regular Guy Ned and Senator Lieberman, who "hasn't really had a dialogue with Connecticut voters about Connecticut issues in a while," is powerful stuff. More articles like this, and the Lamont campaign will save a bundle on PR.
Then there's this from the Norwich Bulletin's Ray Hackett, which Connecticut Democrats will love even more:
I talked with Lieberman this week about the challenge, and asked him if he felt disappointed some Democrats would like to see him defeated and whether he would run as an independent if he were to lose the primary. Here's what he said:
"It's part of the process. You have to earn election; it's not something that's guaranteed, and I look forward to discussing my record with voters.
"Any disappointment would be in the kind of campaign that is run. I intend on winning the primary, but I'm not going to exclude any other possibility. I want to be on the November ballot, and I intend to be Democratic candidate on the ballot. I'm proud to be a Democrat and I have my own vision of what that means." (Hackett)
So the news today is framing this race in a way that Ned Lamont and his supporters would approve of: Ned's a regular guy who listens to folks in Mexican restaurants, while Joe Lieberman seems disconnected and willing to drop the Democratic Party itself to stay in office.
Lamont couldn't ask for a better start to his campaign.
Hackett, Ray. "Column: Busy Warner has growing buzz for '08 nomination." Norwich Bulletin 12 March, 2006.
Pazniokas, Mark. "Lamont Campaign Builds Step By Step." Hartford Courant 13 March, 2006.
A response to the Lamont announcementin press release form from the Lieberman campaign:
"Attacking Senator Lieberman's character and integrity was a predictable but dishonorable way to begin this campaign. Mr. Lamont is clearly going to run a very negative and angry campaign where the truth doesn't get in the way." Sean Smith, campaign manager.
Joe Lieberman - A Career of Progressive Ideas
For almost 18 years, Joe Lieberman has been a leader in the United States Senate on issues that matter to Connecticut Democrats -protecting environment, achieving energy independence, protecting women's privacy, attaining health care for all, helping to create jobs and representing the needs and values of working men and women, ensuring our national security improving education and securing civil rights for all Americans regardless of race, color, gender, sexual orientation or place of origin.
The press release then goes on to detail the Senator's accomplishments.
Press Release: "Lieberman Campaign Responds to Lamont Announcement." Friends of Joe Lieberman. 13 March, 2006.