Tomorrow, Connecticut Democrats will choose between Joe Lieberman and his anti-war challenger Ned Lamont. The Qunnipiac poll that had Lamont leading by 13 percentage points a week ago now has him ahead by only 6 points. The reliability of this poll, and of Senate primary polling in general, is subject to question. Nonetheless, it seems more likely than not that Lamont will win tomorrow’s primary. (For a complete set of the latest Connecticult poll results, see Real Clear Politics)
Lamont, after all, has one huge advantage over Lieberman — Connecticut is a liberal state and liberals hate the war. For voters who believe that abandoning Iraq is moral imperative, or even just a top policy priority, the decision to vote for Lamont is an easy one, especially since it carries no risk of handing the Senate seat to the hapless Republican candidate. Thus, notwithstanding the hand-wringing of Bill Clinton and many in the MSM, at one level there would be nothing scandalous about a Lieberman defeat. At another level though, it is scandalous, or at least unfortunate, that liberal Democratic voters place such a high priority on seeing the U.S. suffer defeat in Iraq at the hands of our terrorist enemies.
Would a Lamont victory in the primary cause Democratic incumbents to push more forcefully for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq? It almost certainly would lead to some scurrying in that direction. But in my view, such scurrying will occur over time regardless of tommorow’s result. The Democratic party is a McGovernite entity. Most of its leading politicians instinctively want us out of Iraq. And now that a majority of Americans have turned against the war, political calculation provides an inadequate brake on the semi-pacificst instincts of the Dems. Even if Lieberman wins, focus groups of Democratic voters will convey to the Democratic politicians who pay for them the same message that the Lamont boomlet has. A Lieberman victory might buck-up Hillary Clinton for a little while, but probably not for long.
Finally, Lieberman has stated that he will run as an independent if he loses tomorrow. What of his chances? A Quinnipiac poll taken several weeks ago showed Lieberman winning handily in a three way race. However, if Lamont becomes the official Democratic nominee, with the full force of the party behind him, the dynamic proabably will change. To be sure, the lack of any risk that the Republican candidate will win (a factor working against Lieberman tomorrow) should work in Lieberman’s favor in the fall. Still, I think he should expect a tough fight.