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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Lastest Connecticut Poll: Joe Lieberman Trailing Ned Lamont

As Mark Blumenthal (Mystery Pollster) has explained in detail, creating a likely voter model for an August primary in a weird race is no easy task. This is compounded by the fact that the political landscape in the Connecticut primary is rapidly breaking. The June 6th Montana Senate Primary had both Jon Tester and John Morrison tied at Memorial Day, but Tester ended up winning by 26 points in a huge landslide. The polls failed to grasp Tester's momentum, youth surge, communication escalation, and GOTV advantage. Interestingly, it appears all four of those dynamics are also at play for Ned Lamont. Today, Quinnipiac released a new poll:

Anti-war Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont has surged to a razor-thin 51 - 47 percent lead over incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 55 - 40 percent lead for Sen. Lieberman among likely Democratic primary voters in a June 8 poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. [...]

Anti-war Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont has surged to a razor-thin 51 - 47 percent lead over incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 55 - 40 percent lead for Sen. Lieberman among likely Democratic primary voters in a June 8 poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.
What does this mean for the race?

While the validity of this poll's likely voter model is easy to debate, this poll is more significant due to how it will influence the race than it is as a snapshot of what is going on in the race. As Atrois says, "Those of you who haven't donated because you thought this was a hopeless battle may reconsider."

I first started blogging about this race almost a year and a half ago at SSP and in the early days there was a pushback from many Leiberman detractors who felt this race was a fools' errand. Yet that is no longer a valid reason not to get involved. This is a horse-race, I mean, Lamont is ahead in the polls!

There is something special going on in Connecticut and people who care about revitalizing our Democratic Party now have even more incentive to be a part of this effort. As word of this poll spreads -- through the blogosphere and email and the news and word of mouth -- it will create even more support for Ned Lamont. Lamont's campaign has a streamlined intake and mobilization process that will allow new supporters to leverage their interest into votes and more support as the momentum snowballs into an avalanche.

Youth Vote
Few things are harder to predict in politics than youth turnout. But when you look at photos of the Lamont phone banks, you will see a lot of young faces. The youth vote is most effectively influenced via peer-to-peer networking, so one question will be the extent to which Lamont volunteers can inspire the people they go out for beers with after they leave the campaign office.

With Lamont firing up young voters, there could be a surprising bump in youth turnout this August. While many people have been discounting the youth vote since 1972, it is important to note that this was Democrats' best performing demographic in 2004. Social networking sites like myspace provide young supporters all of the tools they need for effective peer-to-peer GOTV and Lieberman's anti-video game and parental warning history largely means this is a segment of the population that is Lamont's to seize.

I don't think I have ever seen a campaign that has dominated communitons to the extent of the Lamont campaign. This is a real time race, Lamont is winning, and Lieberman's team looks inept when it takes half the day for the campaign to come out against running as a Republican.

In the two and a half weeks leading up to GOTV, it is the Lamont campaign is running the storyline while Lieberman's campaign appears to be in total disarray.

As things break late in the game, there is only one campaign that is positioned to take advantage of an evolving situation and that gives Lamont an overwhelming advantage.

GOTV and Field
Kevin Rennie says:

The three term incumbent's people concede that he has no effective organization of his own. He has brought in a pro to gin up his ground game with only three weeks left and several million dollars to spend. Lamont manager Tom Swan, an organizing legend in Connecticut, has put together a formidable machine for the challenger. It had a test run in the spring when it prepared to petition Lamont's way onto the primary ballot, which became moot after his strong convention showing.

Lieberman needs a pro like Lindenfeld . His camp has been infiltrated by hostile Democratic officials who are surprised they get invited to his meetings when they have no intention of doing any work for him, let alone giving him their votes.

How bad is it?

The intense and important war is on the ground on telephones and front yards around the state. Connecticut is not accustomed to primaries. [...]

Lieberman is learning a lesson inflicted here on George III: mercenaries are no match for passionate volunteers. Lieberman is having to pay for what Lamont gets for free: troops. They are calling friends and neighbors in phone banks around the state that the campaign has no trouble filling. In many ways, it's an old fashioned campaign.

Connecticut politicians love lawn signs. And they are everywhere for Lamont. The Lieberman campaign woke up recently to find itself badly behind in the anecdotal war over how many signs each side could plant. His campaign had to deploy majordomo and longtime aide Sherry Brown to gin up the lawn sign effort. It was a sign of the parlous state of his campaign that Brown made calls and delivered individual signs to supporters. Picture Susan Estrich stopping at your house in 1988 to stick a Dukakis sign in the grass. Dire is the word that comes to mind.

Lieberman's decision to run as an Independent has made things even worse for him when it comes to the ground game. Matt Stoller agrees that local Democrats aren't planning to help Lieberman in the final push:

If I were a local town committee member or a union official and I had endorsed Lieberman, I would NEVER stick my neck out to help this campaign. Imagine, you offer to crowd-build or do GOTV, and then all of a sudden the candidate implies, for six or seven hours or so, that he might run as a Republican, and you have to explain this to the ardent Democrats you just asked for help who are already skeptical of this man's loyalties. That is incredibly damaging to the credibility of local officials, and a very strong incentive to sit on one's hands. My guess is that moves like this are causing a lot of Lieberman's supporters to become "supporters" in air quotes.

While many local Democrats have hedged their bets and continued to be "supporters" in air quotes, this new poll may give more of them the incentive to stand up to Lieberman. Already, two DTCs have blasted Lieberman for his plan to leave the Democratic Party. On July 13th, Hampton's DTC passed a resolution saying, "The Hampton Democratic Town Committee urges Senator Lieberman to retract his threat to split the party by running as an Independent should he lose the primary election and, instead, to support the candidate elected by Democrats." But Lieberman was hit even harder by a July 17th resolution from Norwalk's DTC:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Norwalk Democratic Town and City Committee hereby expresses its abhorrence of the intended action by Joe Lieberman to run against the Democratic nominee for United States Senator, if that nominee is not Joe Lieberman,

FURTHERMORE, THAT it urges each enrolled member of the Democratic Party in Norwalk to contact Joe Lieberman and demand that he either withdraw from the Democratic primary contest forthwith or accept in advance and without qualification the democratically expressed wishes of the Democratic Party which has supported his long and successful political career.

Meanwhile, Ned Lamont's campaign is focused on persuading and ID'ing voters, while Lieberman's weak field operation has to worry about turning out a respectable crowd when Bill Clinton comes to town.

Ned Lamont's campaign will have more than two weeks after this poll hits the press to finalize GOTV lists. The campaign's communication advantage is captivating the pundits and press while there is a youth surge brewing beneath the surface. And Lamont has the momentum. Lamont's campaign has done a great job of putting the pieces in place and as more supporters join the effort it is hard to see a set of moves that Lieberman could put together to win the primary. The one thing that could keep Lieberman in the race is a promise to support the Democratic Party nominee. But if Lieberman gave a shit about the party he wouldn't be in this mess to begin with.

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