Saturday, October 21, 2006


In Connecticut, Lieberman's up by 17, and Lieberman's candidacy may actually be helping three seemingly vulnerable Republican members of the House in their bids to hold on to their seats. Over at MyDD, Matt Stoller proposes a possible explanation:

... Joe Lieberman is framing himself as something of aan antiwar candidate, repeatedly saying that 'no one wants to end the war in Iraq more than I do.' ...

Lieberman has been similarly slippery on Iran, John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, and whether we're making progress in Iraq. He's running as an antiwar Democrat when talking to public at large, and a conservative Republican when talking to Republicans. He lets surrogates signal to Republicans that Joe is their choice, surrogates such as George Bush, who spoke publicly about Lieberman as someone purged from the 'Democrat' Party because he supports 'victory in Iraq'.

That's why this race is so hard, in a nutshell. Joe Lieberman has promised to end the war in Iraq, and it's a message that a substantial number of antiwar Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters want to hear....

That's part of it. But it's not the whole story.

The fact is, having a somewhat liberal record on domestic issues while being a hawk makes Lieberman a strong candidate in the Northeast. If you find that statement counterintuitive, it's because you think the Northeastern states are solidly liberal-Democrat states. They aren't.

Sure plenty of liberal Dems win up here. But we also elect a lot of moderate and liberal Republicans, as well as some right-leaning Democrats.

I'll start with my city, New York. We've elected a liberal Democratic mayor only once in the last eight elections -- David Dinkins in 1989. Some would say twice, because Ed Koch was perceived as a liberal when he was first elected in 1977, but he became a liberal-basher and a black-baiter -- and handily won reelection in 1981 and 1985. (Republican Mike Bloomberg is actually the most liberal mayor to win reelection here since John Lindsay -- who, of course, was also a Republican.)

Look around. Maine has two (moderate) Republican senators. Vermont's James Jeffords used to be a moderate Reoublican. Six of the last eight governors of Massachusetts have been Republicans, most of them socially moderate-to-liberal -- and the one Democrat besides Dukakis was right-wing.

Rhode Island has had the Chafees. New Jersey had Christie Whitman and Tom Kean (and may elect Tom Kean Jr.). New York has had three terms of George Pataki (and the still-not-antiwar Democrat Hillary Clinton is coasting to victory). Connecticut has Jodi Rell, a moderate GOP governor with an 70% approval rating.

I'm sorry to say that we like our political hermaphrodites up here. We're blue, but we seem to like purple, too. Most of our Republicans aren't wingnuts; many of our Democrats aren't as liberal as you'd think. Throw in the independents and you've got a large chunk of the electorate that can easily gravitate toward someone like Lieberman, someone who can claim to represent a mix of left and right ideas.

For this reason, I question whether Lieberman was ever beatable. He was too popular across the board when Lamont started his run, and though his popularity's taken a hit, he still seems to fit a popular mold. What's going on in Connecticut is dispiriting, but it's not surprising.

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