Yesterday, Scott asked whether “Joe Lieberman swing[s] Republican votes in New Hampshire.” The answer may well be that he does not. However, Lieberman’s endorsement of John McCain has the potential to induce independent voters to support McCain in that state.
During the town hall meeting I attended in Rochester, New Hampshire and its aftermath, I sensed a yearning among voters for a substantial reduction of hostilities between the two parties. Wisely, McCain did not pander to that sentiment. But the Lieberman endorsement reminds voters that McCain is the one candidate in the two parties who would most closely resemble a “unity” president.
The question, though, is the extent to which independents (the group that, by definition, most wants the parties to get along) will vote in the Republican primary. If Hillary Clinton had retained her aura of inevitabilitly, a majority of New Hampshire independents might well have been inclined to vote in the Republican contest. But if, as seems more likely than not, Clinton does not win in Iowa, the Democratic primary may become the contest of choice for independents. And Barack Obama is perceived by many as at least a potential unity candidate himself.
A final point. McCain and Giuliani have been sharing the same “space” in New Hampshire — a rise in the standing of one corresponding to a decline in the standing of the other. Giuliani seems to be fading in New Hampshire and, accordingly, is shifting his focus to Florida and elsewhere. From McCain’s perspective, the more (Republican) Giuliani supporters come over to McCain in New Hampshire, the fewer independents need to participate in the Republican primary.
This, then, is the McCain formula for success in New Hampshire — rely on former Giuliani supporters and independents. In this context, the Lieberman endorsement should prove valuable.
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