The latest Quinnipiac (Q) poll came out while I was on the road last week. The hooting and hollering over it has been pretty triumphal on the part of the anti Joe Lieberman side, and conventional wisdom is now what I said way back in May - this primary was for Lieberman to lose, not for Ned Lamont to win. There are some interesting factoids to tease out the numbers, and some serious ramifications to consider on the conditions under which Lieberman will be returning to the Senate.
Support for Lamont continues to be pitifully anemic, as in comparison to the antipathy fueling the anti-Lieberman contingent. In question 11, "Is your opinion of businessman Ned Lamont favorable, unfavorable, mixed, or haven't you heard enough about him? ", more likely Democratic voters either have no opinion or a poor opinion of Lmaont than a good one. In question 20., "Is your vote more for Lamont or more against Lieberman?", 63% say it is more against Lieberman. In question 24, "Do you think Ned Lamont has the right kind of experience to be a United States Senator or not?" even likely Dem voters only give him 37% "Yes" support. I'm sorry, that's pretty pathetic all the way around. This is not a candidate that is exciting local voters.
The peculiar number in the polling, to my mind, was in question 22 - "Thinking about the 2006 election for United States Senator, do you feel that Joseph Lieberman deserves to be reelected, or do you feel that he does not deserve to be reelected?" Even the likely Dem primary voters, who would just have said they are more likely to vote for Lamont, are 1% more likely to say Lieberman deserves reelection than not (46% vs. 45%). Among general Dem voters, it jumps to over 50%.
Then the infamous question 18, who will you vote for in the Dem primary, is not all it is cracked up to be. It includes leaners, and does not indicate how much of the total is composed of leaners rather than decideds. The spread itself is almost within the margin of error (4 point advantage vs. 3.8% error) . If the leaner group is large enough, it could shift back. I doubt this will happen, but I suspect that Lamont will have less than 51%. It all depends on how many dumb things Lieberman does between now and primary day.
Looking at the general election match ups, it is clear that A) any Dem is going to beat the Republican and B) Lamont barely holds a majority of Democrats if pitted against Lieberman, and gets blown away by theRepublicans crossing party lines. Lieberman out polls Lamont in the general among Democrats in a two-way combination, and there is a smaller spread between them with Lieberman as an Independent than in the Dem primary. Say what? This makes no sense on the surface of it. People who had to have said they were voting for Lamont in the primary are stronger for Lieberman in the general as a Dem. What can explain this? I think the basic fact is that a definite though slim majority of Dems in CT prefer having a senior senator than an unknown candidate, but they want to shake Lieberman up and see if they can get him to be more responsive, particularly on Iraq. In short, with the announcement of an Independent run, Lieberman has freed Dem voters up to smack him good in the primary, then turn around and send him back to DC in November a chastened man.
This won't work. Given the nature of Lieberman's blind spots, I don't think he can be chastened, only enraged. The very reasons why he most needs to be removed from the Senate are what will come to the fore with his return.
It also means that he is in a better position to be a thorn in Harry Reid's side, as he will have been elected outside the normal party structure if he loses the primary (strong possibility though not guaranteed). On the one hand, he should formally lose all seniority on committees. On the other, if the Dems get 50 seats, and Lieberman makes 51, he is in the position to demand the sun, the moon and the stars to be kept happy in the caucus. If the Republicans only have 49 seats, you can bet they will be courting Holy Joe heavily to get him to caucus with them. Depending on the level of Lieberman's indignation and desire to punish the perceived lack of support from the Dem side of the aisle, he may just do that. If the current balance continues, Lieberman will not be very useful to either side, and may find himself getting locked out, though I suspect the Dems will be grabbing for every warm body they can stuff in a chair. It may offend people to hear this, but that is how power operates. More than a few senators have considered the possible outcomes. They are thinking of January and who is going to be in the cloakroom.
So, kids, a real Lady or the Tiger situation shaping up in CT, as I predicted. My fundamental opinion is that the party needs to pry Lieberman away from positions of power and get a new and less arrogant person in his slot. However, given the mounting insanity of the Cheney administration's foreign "policy", coupled with the economic debacle they are making of the US, is an even more insufferably self-righteous Lieberman going to make things worse for the party and the nation? Ordinarily, I'd advocate the house cleaning. With the horrific criminality of the neocons, I can't uneqivocally support that stance.