Joe Lieberman and his campaign staff must be asking themselves just that question this morning. How does an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, a central figure in Connecticut Democratic politics for more than 35 years, find himself in a stastistical tie with a man who was a complete unknown seven months ago? Worse for Lieberman, the poll's not an anomaly:
I just wrote a piece for the latest print issue on the Lieberman campaign and I thought I had a bit of a scoop: a recent unpublished independent poll actually had Lieberman trailing Lamont 48 to 44. Then this morning Quinnipiac--the Godzilla of Connecticut polling--released its first poll in more than a month. It shows Lamont leading Lieberman 51 to 47. Looks like that unpublished independent poll was on to something. (Zengerle)
He must have seen it coming two weeks ago, when he decided to start collecting petitions. His campaign's internal polls probably showed Lamont gaining all through June, and once the gap was closed Lieberman felt like he had no choice but to get those petitions ready.
So how did it happen? Believe it or not, it isn't just those scheming bloggers, or a bunch of antiwar leftists hijacking the Democratic Party. There's more. Yes, part of it has to do with Lamont himself, but this rift between Lieberman and his own party has been building up for a long time. Some examples:
- The Early Years: (This was suggested by tparty at LamontBlog, and he's right)
I'd only add that while this has really kicked in since his 2000 VP run, this actually all started way before 1998 and impeachment. You can go back to Joe's fight against universal healthcare, his deceit on Clarence Thomas' nomination, his wishy-washyness on affirmative action, his sanctimonious moralizing about Hollywood with Bill Bennett and company, and his ties to right-wing figures like William F. Buckley that got him off the ground vs. Weicker in the first place.Good points. It's very interesting to note that Democratic discomfort with Lieberman began with the endgame to the Republican Party's annoyance with Lowell Weicker.
- Attacks on Clinton: Bill Clinton may be coming to Waterbury to campaign for Lieberman later this month, but back in 1998 Lieberman was one of the first Democrats to criticize Clinton over Monica Lewinsky, which added fuel to the Republicans' fire. This is when Lieberman vaulted on to the national stage for the first time, much like Lowell Weicker did during Watergate. And, like Weicker post-Watergate, it caused some in his own party to turn their backs on him.
- A Debate in Which he was Nice: Lieberman was cordial and genial during the 2000 vice presidential debate, when he faced Dick Cheney. Many Democrats felt he did a poor job at best.
- Down a Senator: Lieberman ran for both U.S. Senator and Vice President in 2000. What if he had won the vice presidency, as many believe he actually did? John Rowland would have appointed his replacement, and tilted the balance to the Republicans. President Gore would have faced an entirely GOP Congress thanks to Lieberman. More grumbling.
- Where'd You Go, Joe? I keep hearing that, after 2000, Lieberman was somehow different. He grew less responsive. He became, in his mind as well as in fact, a national political figure. He got too big for tiny Connecticut, which mattered not at all in the presidential primary season, and wasn't a swing state.
- Friend of Bush: There has been a perception building for some time that Lieberman is too close to the Administration. He didn't help matters by going on Fox News and bashing other Democrats, or by making public statements like:
- Iraq: The war's never been popular in Connecticut. Lieberman, as seen above, has consistently supported it. That was bound to produce some friction, although Lieberman apparently never saw it coming.
- Worst Campaign Ever: Democrats in Connecticut started seriously searching for an anti-war candidate in late 2005, and conversations about a Lieberman challenger were going on long before that. But Ned Lamont would not have managed to be ahead of Lieberman in the polls right now without Lieberman's help. He has run a vicious, negative, petty and largely pointless campaign. The campaign has done more to undermine Lieberman's image as a genial statesman than Lamont ever could, and it's cost him.
- Independent Joe: Now he's willing to turn his back on Democratic primary voters by running as an independent should he lose. It's the last straw for some.
Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.And so on.
Some in my party threaten to send a message that they don't know a just war when they see it, and more broadly that they're not prepared to use our military strength to protect our security and the cause of freedom.
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there.
We undermine the President's credibility at our nation's peril.
In short, Lieberman has always managed to annoy a certain slice of Democrats. That slice has been growing steadily during the endless crises of the past five years, and Lieberman himself has poured fuel on the fire during this campaign.
So if the Lieberman campaign is wondering why Connecticut Democrats have "suddenly" turned on their candidate, they should look to the past, and to Lieberman's own actions over the last decade.
Zengerle, Jason. "Ned Lamont: Front-Runner." Blog Post. The Plank. 21 July, 2006.