It's been the subject of whispered conversations among top Republican officials for the past month. Now, U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, R-4th District, has let slip the secret: GOP officials have discussed cross-endorsing Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman this fall.
In an interview today with the editorial board of The Advocate of Stamford, Shays said he intends to vote for Lieberman and is encouraging a Republican endorsement of the three-term senator. (Pazniokas)
As mentioned earlier today, Shays and Lieberman have almost identical positions on the Iraq War, as well as on other issues.
Shays is apparently not entirely alone in this, although the article notes that Republic Party officals are backing away from it. Lieberman's camp also seems a little surprised:
By Tuesday evening, spokesmen for top Republicans publicly distanced themselves from the possibility of backing Lieberman, who faces a Democratic primary over his support of President Bush and the war in Iraq.
And a spokeswoman for Lieberman, who previously had refused to rule out appearing on any but the Democratic line on the November ballot, said he would not accept a cross-endorsement.
"Would he accept the endorsement of the Republican Party? No, he is seeking the Democratic Party nomination," said Casey Aden-Wansbury, his communication director. She said no one representing Lieberman has discussed a cross-endorsement with Republicans.
"I thank Chris Shays for his support," Lieberman said, according to his staff. "But of course I am enthusiastically supporting my fellow Democrat Diane Farrell in this congressional race, as I did two years ago." (Pazniokas)
This may just be Shays saying what he thinks. It also may mean that the GOP isn't planning on running a strong candidate against Lieberman, after all.
Ned Lamont and his backers ought to be thrilled. Even the possibility of a Republican endorsement, despite Lieberman's protestations, seems to prove their point that Lieberman isn't a "real" Democrat quite neatly. The real loser here seems to be Diane Farrell, who compromised her stance on the Iraq War by endorsing Lieberman, only to find her opponent endorsing him a few days later.
Notice also that Republicans aren't aghast. It's significant that Rell didn't dismiss the idea out of hand, but was "noncomittal." I wonder what George Gallo thinks?
What's really happening, here?
It's fascinating that, despite the polarization of political parties in Washington and elsewhere in the country, that a Republican and a Democrat can have so much in common. This, plus the fact that the Senate is ultimately controlled by a loose centrist coalition (the so-called "Gang of 14," of which Lieberman is a member) suggests that there are no longer only two opposing political parties, but three major conglomerations of interests. There is the right, the left, and a resurgent center which straddles the parties. The direction of that wavering, hesitant center may very well determine the course of the nation.
Democrats in Connecticut have occupied the center for nearly forty years. For Republicans who want a piece of that center ground, a cross-endorsement wouldn't be a bad move at all. Lieberman is well-liked by independents in Connecticut, and having both Jodi Rell and Joe Lieberman on the same line could result in significant gains for the GOP. It's a thought that should make Democrats shiver.
A cross-endorsement of Lieberman probably won't happen--not this year. But the left-right-center dynamics the possibility exposes are intriguing.
Pazniokas, Mark. "Shays Endorsing Lieberman." Hartford Courant 28 February, 2006.