David Broder at the Washington Post writes today that Lieberman-supporting Democrats are pulling out all the stops in their quest to help him overcome the dark-horse candidacy of Ned Lamont:
WATERBURY, Conn., July 24 — Former president Bill Clinton joined a stage full of Connecticut officials Monday night in testifying to the Democratic credentials of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, whose 18-year tenure is threatened by the primary challenge of antiwar insurgent Ned Lamont.
Clinton headed a rescue effort disguised as a rally in the refurbished Palace Theater in downtown Waterbury — a city famous in Democratic lore as the site of a tumultuous 2 a.m. outdoor rally on the final night of the 1960 presidential campaign.
With polls showing him no better than even with Lamont, a wealthy businessman who is largely self-financing his challenge in the Aug. 8 primary, Lieberman turned to his old friend Clinton for help.
The senator recalled that, as a Yale Law School student, Clinton had volunteered in Lieberman’s first campaign for the state Senate 36 years ago, and he said he hoped this return visit would have an equally happy result — a victory. The two have remained close through the years, despite the fact that Lieberman admonished Clinton for his moral laxity in the Monica Lewinsky affair in a celebrated Senate floor speech. Lieberman made no reference to that event Monday night but instead recalled, “I was the first senator outside Arkansas to endorse Bill Clinton for the nomination in 1992.”
Lieberman did not mention Iraq or his support for the war, and Clinton touched only lightly on what he referred to as “the pink elephant in the room.”
Clinton made no effort to support Lieberman’s view; instead he said that Democrats should bear no blame for “the mistakes that were made after the fall of Saddam Hussein” and added: “We can disagree on what we do next . . . but we can fight together and we can go forward together.”
California Senator Barbara Boxer, noted Iraq war critic, has thrown her support behind Lieberman as well:
And Lieberman has campaigned with other prominent Democrats in hopes of renewing his ties to Democratic voters. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, a strong opponent of the Iraq war, was at his side for a morning of campaigning before Clinton’s arrival.
She praised Lieberman’s record on other issues of importance to Democrats. “If you want to meet a leader on the environment, a leader on all the difficult choice issues, you got one here,” she said at a campaign stop at a candy store.
What’s going on here is, I think, a war on what the future of the Democratic party will be: will it be the party of rabid anti-war types like Ned Lamont? Or will it be the party that is able to find middle ground on the issue of the Iraq war – with those who don’t think we should be in Iraq and those who supported the Iraq war and still do being able to agree that in spite of their differences we need to finish what we started there? With defeatist Democrats like House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi hailing last December the “diverse” stances the Democratic party has taken on the Iraq war, as well as a repeated failure to find a unified message on Iraq, I don’t hold out any hope that the rabid anti-war faction will unite with Democrats who insist we must stay in Iraq to complete the mission.
The Lamont/Lieberman primary next month may very well be the bellwether of this year’s elections.
Peter Brown, writing for Real Clear Politics, is on the same page:
The anti-Lieberman effort has become a cause celebre for Internet gadflies who are a rising power in Democratic politics. Among Lamont’s major backers is the brother of Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, whose 2004 presidential candidate was the darling of the blogger set that disdains Lieberman for his cordial relationship with Bush.
The defeat of Lieberman, among the Democrats most conservative senators, would again raise the specter of a Democratic Party dominated by a liberal wing unwilling to tolerate dissent.
A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed among likely Democratic primary voters Lamont, a businessman spending part of his $100 million fortune on the race, was narrowly – within the margin of error – ahead of Lieberman, closing a 15-point gap in the last month.
Moreover, the data shows Lamont supporters are more energized and likely to actually show up at the polls than are Democrats for Lieberman.
Lieberman is collecting petition signatures to get on the November ballot as an independent if he loses the primary. The Quinnipiac poll found that in a three-way race against Lamont and a Republican, Lieberman would win by 24 points, although his margin has shrunk 14 points in the last month.
Connecticut Democrats have been down this road before. In 1970, anti-Vietnam War candidate Joseph Duffy knocked off incumbent Thomas Dodd, who had been a supporter of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s policy. Dodd’s son Chris Dodd is now Connecticut’s other U.S. senator.
But the anti-war wing, although powerful within Democratic primaries, did not represent the political mainstream in 1970. Duffy lost the November election to Republican Lowell Weicker, who is backing Lamont against Lieberman, who defeated him in 1988.
A Lieberman primary loss might cause more heartburn for Democrats nationally than for the candidate. Democratic primary voters have different views and values than even the larger number of Democrats who vote in the November election, not to mention independents and Republicans. All of which explains the string of Republicans White House victories.
Read the whole thing.
Will the ‘party of tolerance’ finally be fully exposed this year as the party of intolerance? Stay tuned ….
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