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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ned Lamont Convention Coverage

Ned Lamont's surpising embarrassment of Senator Joe Lieberman at last night's Connecticut Democratic Party Convention changed the dynamics of the entire race. Political Wire called it a, "stunning rebuke" and noted, "Worse for Lieberman, he now faces what will be the first national campaign of the election season, turning what should be a state primary into a nationwide referendum on Iraq and President Bush's foreign policy." Colin McEnroe concluded:

There were stories circulating on the floor about Lamont voters who stayed home rather than show up and be squeezed by the rest of their delegations. And several Democratic elected officials admitted to me they were voting for Lieberman in the public forum of a convention while fully determined to vote for Lamont in the privacy of a booth.

I think 33 percent is a pretty bad number for an incumbent senator to give up to a challenger nobody ever heard of. Certainly, the Lamont team members were staggering around like dazed lottery winners. "Pinch me," Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan told a comrade. The Lieberman team was acting like they knew it all along. "Can we count or can we count?" Lieberman manager Sean Smith languidly told a reporter. He was unpersuasive. It may have been a number that tumbled out of their worst-case game theory, but it certainly was not a number they wanted.

The real number is lot worse for Lieberman than 33 percent. I don't know how big the Lamont vote would get if you could tabulate the no-shows and the sleeper cells of delegates who plan to vote differently in the primary, but I do know it's a bigger number. And the convention is full of party regulars, usually the easiest people to keep in line. Wisdom of the ages would suggest that the "amateur" voters are potentially much more rebellious.

Lieberman can try to fight back with a tsunami of commercials, right away. That's one option. The Lamont people were still talking, even after the happy results, about playing small ball, with limited media buys; but I wonder. He's a very wealthy man, worth between $90 and $300 million. He might not have been willing to spent much of that on a pipe dream, but now that the rank aand file have shown him some Big Love, maybe he'll sacrifice a larger chunk of his fortune. And his strong showing means some other outside money will flow into the campaign, most notably from

Thirdparty rounded up early reaction and wrote:

A true gauge of support for Ned Lamont on the convention floor would have had him at a lot more than the 33.4% he won.

Many delegates admitted that they voted for Lieberman half-heartedly last night in a public ballot, but plan to vote full-heartedly for Lamont in August in a private one. McEnroe talks of stories he heard of delegates staying home last night rather than show up and feel forced to vote for Joe, and I've heard the same stories (one where such a delegate refused to take Joe's phone call a few days earlier). And many more delegates voted for Joe for reasons of personal gain, political strategy, or just plain inertia. Very few - if any - voted for him in anything approaching full agreement or enthusiastic support of his candidacy. (Reportedly, the only even attempted pro-Joe enthusiasm in the place last night were the college kids he paid to run around and try to start cheers, and they quit trying about halfway through.) And as Jon from Kiss Joe Goodbye points out, if you take away the five large machine-dominated cities where bloc-voting (not a true gauge of support) brought Lieberman the bulk of his votes, Ned actually won 41.35% of the vote. (Read Tess Wheelwright's excellent micro-breakdown of the New Haven delegation, from one such city.)

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to claim that if a free vote - a true measure of support for Lamont - was taken last night, Ned would have ended up as the endorsed nominee of the party. And, this morning, Joe Lieberman would be deciding whether to switch parties or retire. [...]

Most importantly, though, 33.4% means that all Democrats in Connecticut - from the highest elected official to the union member to the long-time supporter of Joe - no longer have anything to fear by openly supporting Ned Lamont. And that's probably what's scaring Joe this morning most of all.
Matt Stoller wrote:

My guess is that the national party committees are nervously watching Connecticut now. Howard Dean is on the record saying that the DNC will support the eventual nominee. Lieberman committed to running as a Democrat to Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, but he won't go on the record about it. I have no doubt Lieberman will break this pledge, but that doesn't mean his party support will dry up. Schumer thinks that the DSCC's job is to support incumbents, and it's not clear that he means Democratic incumbents.

My guess is that the DSCC sticks with Lieberman, even if Lieberman jumps to become an independent. That's just a guess. They never thought they'd have to be involved here, and may be stuck in a bind. They also are probably underestimating the amount of blowback from backing an independent Lieberman against a Democratic Lamont, since they don't really believe that we're real. The DNC will not go with Lieberman if he jumps. It may stay neutral, or it may come in for Lamont. This is going to set up an interesting fight should Lieberman look at the numbers and decide that he's better off in a general than a primary.

Regardless, Ned Lamont is now a real candidate, and a legitimate challenger to Lieberman. There has always been wide expectations that Lieberman would simply crush Lamont. When Lieberman had the whole Connecticut establishment (including labor unions heads) go to his birthday party and talk about how great he is, one serious DC insider said to me "Matt, Lieberman's a serious guy and a great politician. You don't know what you're up against. And watch, there's a lot more coming." Well, I have to say that this convention showed, once again, that the insiders have bad political judgment. Still, he's right about one thing. Lieberman has $5 million that he can spend on sliming Lamont, though he probably spent 300k-500k on the convention fight, with all the glossy mailers and food and drink at the expo center. Lamont needs money, and I hope this convention has proved that his campaign will spend it well.

This is the candidate and the fight we've always dreamed of.
The latest rumor on My Left Nutmeg is that Lieberman will leave the party within the next two weeks. That really would put Schumer in a helluva position. If the DSCC backed Lieberman after he left the party, it would be clearly exposed as nothing more than an incumbent protection organization and would suffer serious, long term damage.

Jane Hamsher wrote a post last night about how this is changing politics:

Because it occurs to me that there must be many people rethinking their positions. And I wonder what they're doing tonight:

  • Chuck Schumer and the DEMOCRATIC Senatorial Campaign Committee, who has so far refused to commit to support the DEMOCRATIC nominee in the Connecticut race...
  • Harry Reid, who cut a bad deal with Holy Joe to support him if he'd agree to run as a Democrat (Joe promptly punk'd him)...
  • Hillary Clinton, who issued a bunch of bullshit claims about Joe's fictional opposition to Social Security privatization in support of him...
  • All those Connecticut Democrats who have been backing Holy Joe even after he threatened, caujolled and manipulated them because they thought he was always going to be around...
  • All the members of the Gang of 14 who voted to put a foaming fundie freak like Strip Search Sammy on the Supreme Court and thought they'd never have to pay for it (especially the ones whose names begin with "Lincoln" and end in "Chafee")
  • Holy Joe himself, who as Kos said, knows that he stands a better chance of winning as an independent (he needs those Republican votes), and can be sure that on the heels of this that Lamont will start pulling down the big support of groups who sat on the sidelines as things got hot...
  • Those Democratic political consultants who think that the netroots are just an ATM machine whose values don't need to be respected and are best treated like children. (I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Lamont campaign -- especially in the person of Ned’s campaign manager, Tom Swan -- is the only one that has taken the time to sit down in front of a computer, figure out what the blogs are all about and learn how to work with us.)
  • And last but not least, the women of America...and the men who support them...who have felt victimized, betrayed, angry, treated like second class citizens being herded like cattle into the Republic of Gilead by churlish little pricks like Joe Lieberman and everyone else who voted to put Strip Search Sammy on the bench for no other reason than political opportunism. Who ignored our emails, our letter, or faxes, our entreaties to please respect our dignity and our civil rights and who chose instead to suck up to GOP power and piss all over the constitution.
Things are changing. The best quote was in today's New York Times:
In an appearance after the vote, Mr. Lamont said his showing would resonate beyond Connecticut. "Thirty-three percent is telling the people in Washington, we want change," he said.

More on the convention:

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