As Lamont campaign fizzles, the blame game begins

And some Dem strategists are even talking about Lamont’s campaign in the past tense. Via the NY Observer:

Life for Mr. Lamont has changed dramatically since the heady days of his victory over incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman in August’s primary. There is still a week to go until Election Day, but the enthusiasm that impelled his unlikely insurgency has ebbed. The exhilarating Lamont experiment has fizzled.

“During the primary, it was more person-to-person” Mr. Lamont said on Saturday morning, after taking shelter from the rain inside his Ford Escape, parked on Black Rock Avenue in New Britain, Conn. “I find that in a general election, everything is more compressedβ€”lots more TV and more 30-second spots and media hits back and forth. And you know, there Joe went at us pretty good, pretty early, and I’m relatively new to the political landscape.”

Down more than a dozen points in the polls, Mr. Lamont has practically become a self-financed candidate, pouring $12.7 million of his own money into his campaign to compensate for lackluster fund-raising. He is sorely missing the grassroots fervor and national attention he enjoyed early on, when he was the darling of the blogosphere and the bellwether of Democratic politics. Mr. Lamont is making a last-ditch effort to refocus his message on Iraq and regain his prior momentum, but it seems to be too little, too late.

Democratic strategists and consultants, some of them sympathetic to the campaign, are already talking about it in the past tense.

“I think it was possible for Lamont to pull it off” said Bob Shrum, a veteran political analyst. “There were moments right after the primary where it was basically a tied race.”

The apparent end of the much-ballyhooed Lamont phenomenon is causing a great deal of soul-searching and recrimination in all corners of the Democratic Party. The bloggers that once championed Mr. Lamont as an awkward but earnest savior now alternately blame Washington’s strategists for hijacking their candidate and Democratic leaders for abandoning him. Beltway consultants fault the Lamont campaign for failing to move the candidate beyond his left-wing celebrity and define him for a greater electorate.

As the article points out, at this point in Lamont’s campaign, he is basically a self-financed candidate because he is simply not pulling the money in, despite prominent Democrats promising to throw their weight behind him after he won the August primary.

I think the “Beltway consultants” got it right when they said what’s hurt the Lamont campaign is his failure to move beyond the far left celebrity icon he’s become to the Nutroots but that, I think, is something he couldn’t have overcome even if he really tried because the Nutroots are the ones who propelled him to victory back in August. If he ran away from that, he’d be even further down in the polls than he is now.

I also think some of the same Democrats who vowed to support him and who also encouraged Lieberman to drop out of the race rather than become an Independent knew that Lamont’s support wouldn’t reach anywhere beyond the Nutroots. Howard Dean should understand this better than anyone, especially considering how his Nutroots celebrity star crashed in the Democratic primaries among somewhat more mainstream Dems, just two months after Al Gore endorsed him over Lieberman. Dean knows that the power of a candidate that is perceived to be more mainstream than someone who garners support mainly from base hardliners is going to get more support from people who will look to the mainstream candidate as being more ‘electable.’

If Lieberman had not stayed in this thing, Lamont would be way ahead in the polls now, and would likely be in the winner’s seat next Tuesday – galvanizing the anti-war base even more than the primaries did. But Lieberman toughed it out, much to the dismay of Democrats who thought they could sneak in an anti-Iraq war candidate without too much fanfare beyond the primaries.

Thankfully, their plans look to have backfired.

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