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Connecticut

Outlook: Leans Independent


November 6, 2006 Update:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I/D) will win reelection over Ned Lamont (D). In August, anti-Iraq War activists knew they could only send an immediate message by targeting Lieberman, but in November they finally have Republicans to target and Lamont has badly lost steam. The quirky outsider image that served Lamont so well in the primary season seems to be failing him in the general election, and his Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton backdrop on primary night never boded well for his efforts to expand his vote total from 146,404 to the 600,000 or so he will need to oust the three-term incumbent.

September 28, 2006 Update:

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released September 28, Senator Joe Lieberman is currently resting on a 10 point lead over Democrat Ned Lamont, 49 percent to 39 percent. Lieberman’s growth is the most significant amongst independents, who favor him over Lamont, 50 percent to 36 percent. Though other polls are showing a Lieberman lead within the margin of error, Lamont could be unpleasantly surprised in six weeks if he fails to change his strategy.

Clare Seekins, Crystal Ball Northeastern Regional Correspondent

August 10, 2006 Update:

The grand irony of Sen. Joe Lieberman‘s Tuesday defeat, of course, is the likelihood that more than 5,000 voters out of Ned Lamont‘s 146,000 total would have voted for Lieberman had the incumbent pledged to abide by the results of the Democratic primary, a tiny fraction of the electorate sufficient to reverse the result. Lieberman’s decision to simultaneously seek the Democratic nod and petition his way onto the ballot as “insurance” proved a woeful political miscalculation and sent the ultimate mixed message. For all his experiential advantage against Lamont, it was the incumbent who proved both the inferior decision-maker and communicator in this classic race. But for Lieberman, hindsight is 20/20.

Once a new three-way race gels, it should shape up to be a closely matched continuation of the battle between Lieberman and Lamont, with minor-league Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger lagging somewhere in the teens in polls (assuming he is not replaced). For starters, the results of Connecticut’s nomination battle royal will trigger a remarkable reversal of roles. Lamont, who was alternately viewed as a dangerous far-left Robespierre figure by detractors and a plainspoken progressive crusader by admirers, will now be able to wrap himself in the support of nearly all key Democratic establishment figures who had supported Lieberman, including national party leaders (the Clintons and party committees), labor unions (such as the AFL-CIO), and even close Lieberman friend/CT senior Sen. Chris Dodd. And for all his incumbency, Lieberman’s highest-profile in-state praise for an independent bid will likely come from Republicans. But is Lieberman actually losing a critical bulwark of support? The Crystal Ball’s guess is that his transition from establishment endorsee to semi-outsider independent candidate will not be terribly disabling in its own right. After all, who knows–the outsider mantle worked for Ned Lamont!

(Read more in the Aug. 10 Crystal Ball email update.)

August 2, 2006 Update:

Everyone has an opinion on Connecticut. Our opinion is that Joe Lieberman made a bad strategic decision in deciding to run simultaneously for the Democratic nomination and an Independent berth on the general election ballot. Connecticut is not New York; in the Empire State it is common for candidates to secure multiple ballot positions and to seek them as a matter of course.

Lieberman has insulted many Democrats and they seem less inclined to vote for him in the primary. Perhaps former President Bill Clinton‘s recent apearance in Connecticut and his strong endorsement of Lieberman will change the “Joe-mentum” in Lieberman’s favor, but Lieberman has take what was once a fairly-sure thing and turned it into a very competitive primary contest with Ned Lamont. It is mainly about the Iraq war, but not totally anymore; this primary has become a character test for Lieberman.

Joe Lieberman has many problems, but an underlined one is that people sense that Lieberman has a sense of entitlement when it comes to his Senate seat. No one can forget that he hedged his bets in 2000 and ran for reelection to the Senate while running for vice president on Al Gore‘s ticket; many saw that as selfish. Sure enough, he’s done it again. In the midst of seeking renomination from the Democrats, he is trying to have his cake and eat it too, by filing as an Independent. The Crystal Ball understands ambition and the politician’s unquenchable desire for reelection and continued importance, but Lieberman has gone to the well in two extensively covered trips, and it is clearly grating on Democrats. Most of our Connecticut sources tell us that Lamont is going to beat Lieberman for the Democratic nomination. Their intelligence may be right and it may be wrong, and Lieberman could still win reelection as an Independent, but his reputation in the Democratic Party has been irreparably damaged–whether he wins another term or not. It’s a safe bet that Lieberman will never again be on a national Democratic ticket.

Should Lamont actually defeat Lieberman in the primary, it is entirely possible that he will shoot ahead of him in the subsequent polls at least for some period of time. Either way, the Democrats are certain to retain this seat, since GOP candidate Alan Schlesinger is not considered–even by many Republicans–to be a serious contender.

June 22, 2006 Update:

It is becoming crystal clear that Joe Lieberman is struggling to secure the Democratic nomination. His opposition to both anti-Iraq War Senate resolutions sponsored by Democrats on June 21 has energized the liberal opposition supporting Ned Lamont. At best, Lieberman can hope to win a relatively narrow victory in the primary. Some of his senior supporters are now openly arguing that he should withdraw from the primary and run as an Independent Democrat. Probably, Lieberman would win the November election that way, since many Republicans and Independents would join a sizeable number of Democrats in backing him. But what a headache for DSCC Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer! Does he do anything for Lamont and thus anger Lieberman? Or does he stay low, ignore Lamont, and incur the undying wrath of liberal activists in and out of CT? Stay tuned.

June 1, 2006 Update:

Ned Lamont received a third of the Democratic convention vote in late May; as such, he has proven to be a major thorn in Senator Joe Lieberman‘s side. Few observers in Connecticut can win the primary, but he is unquestionably teaching Lieberman a lesson about the nature of Democratic activists. So far Lieberman has not wavered on the Iraq war, so he will continue to be a major target for an anti-war protest vote.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Sure enough, Ned Lamont has chosen to challenge Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Lamont is very wealthy and is attacking Lieberman from the left on the Iraq War, with the encouragement of former governor Lowell Weicker. It is possible Lamont will get a sizeable protest vote; it is difficult to believe that under any circumstance this protest vote could exceed 35 percent. Lieberman is strongly popular in the state–among Republicans and In
dependents, not just Democrats. Somehow, despite the controversy, Lieberman should survive and maybe even prosper


Background

Some liberal Democrats are upset with three-term Senator Joe Lieberman, and believe that he has acted too cozy with President Bush. So there may be a primary challenge in the offing, and the surprise candidate could be the man Lieberman defeated to gain entrance to the U.S. Senate: Lowell P. Weicker. Weicker was a two-term Senator, and no doubt still something of a grudge against Lieberman for taking the Senate seat from him. However, Weicker says that his candidacy–if it happens–will be based on opposition to the Iraq War, which Lieberman essentially supports. Weicker, who was a Republican Senator and an Independent governor, will possibly run against Lieberman in the Democratic primary–thereby making Weicker the rarest of creatures, a tri-partisan!

Should this clash occur in the Democratic primary, it also opens up an opportunity for the Republicans, should they be able to find a good Senate candidate as a running mate for heavily favored Governor Jodi Rell, as she runs for her first elected term as the Nutmeg State’s chief executive.

Candidates

Joseph Lieberman (I) – Independent – Second Quarter Raised: $1,609,429 | Cash on Hand: $4,279,089
Website

Ned Lamont – Democrat – Second Quarter Raised: $2,028,439 | Cash on Hand: $276,977
Website

Alan Schlesinger – Republican – Second Quarter Raised: $113,546 | Cash on Hand: $75,544
Website