Disclosure: I worked for the Lamont campaign doing web design and production and some writing for the official blog (from 9/5/06 to 11/07/06).

Friday, August 18, 2006


NYT on GOP Joe

Tomorrow's Times takes an in-depth look at the Republican party's apparently final decision to abandon Alan Schlesinger (Foxwoods-CT) for Joe Lieberman (R-CT).

According to the article, some in the national Republican leadership looked into recruiting a replacement in the days immediately following Ned Lamont's victory, with the three contested House races figuring prominently in their deliberations:

Initially, in the days after Mr. Lamont’s victory, Republican officials had feelers out for a stronger Republican candidate than Mr. Schlesinger, according to strategists with close ties to the party and the White House.

One strategist said the fear was that a hard-fought race between Mr. Lamont and Mr. Lieberman would spur Democratic turnout, which in turn, he said, could harm vulnerable Republicans in the state, like Representatives Christopher Shays and Rob Simmons.

While Republicans were always pessimistic about finding a replacement who could win the Senate race outright — Connecticut is a largely Democratic state — the hope had been to find someone who could excite Republican voters enough to offset a feared surge of Democratic votes in November.

But in the days since the primary, concerns about a Democratic surge have subsided; Mr. Lieberman appears to be creating enthusiasm, even only among Republicans, helped in part by the lack of institutional fervor for his Republican rival.

(An obvious typo by Kornblut... my edits in bold.)

So it's pretty much spelled out here. Once Rove et. al. were convinced that the Lieberman Party would turn out Republicans for the House races and not Democrats, they called off any institutional support for Schlesinger and any search for a possible replacement. (Could that primary-day phone call from Rove have had anything to do with this?)

And every single move Joe has made since has seen this coordinated Republican-Lieberman strategy borne out - from bashing Democrats on national security, to accepting the support of Swift-Boat-type groups, to refraining from any attack on Republicans whatsoever, to hiring a partisan Republican pollster who works for Rep. Simmons (R), one of the precious few targets of Democrats in their attempt to take back the House.

Strategically, helping Republicans hold on to the House is now the raison d'être of Lieberman's candidacy.

But ideologically, his candidacy is all about dulling the effect of Iraq on the GOP, as Lieberman campaign contributor Bill Kristol so clearly reveals in the article:

“For me, it’s an uncomplicated decision,” said William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and a neoconservative who is helping Mr. Lieberman through an independent group called Vets for Freedom, which is helping to raise funds and providing strategic advice for the senator.

“Partisan Republicans may be ambivalent; they see a partisan advantage to Lamont,” he said. But, he said, “Foreign policy hawks and Bush doctrine believers and prowar types, we want Lieberman to win.”

Bush doctrine believers want Lieberman to win. Can't get much more straightforward than that.

After all, so does Bush himself.
Another way to look at the spin is to ask why not support Schlesinger nominally? It would give the appearance of Republican party unity. Not supporting him is something of a sign of weakness.

Maybe Lieberman's internals don't look that good. Probably Simmons', Shays' and Johnson's numbers look even worse. Add a Schlesinger presence and the numbers look even more shaky. In other words clear the field to let Lieberman make a hail mary in the hopes he has coattails.

If the internals showed comfortable leads, they wouldn't be this worried.

They smell losses.

The kicker is probably that if Rove figures he can hold the three house seats, he probably doesn't care if Lieberman loses. Lieberman is just a tool. Lieberman is the kitchen sink. He's just there to make a splash. If he ends up on the bottom who cares...
This gets back to the whole "firing his staff" ruse Lieberman used after the primary loss. Doubtless there would have been changes but just as likely many disaffected Democrats could no longer countenance working for the de facto Republican candidate. And make no mistake about it, all Joe's polling, all his prior work in getting Democrats out to vote is now with GOP pollsters and strategists. And all that information will now be used to against Democrats in November. One wonders if the DiNardo's, the Schumer's are doing anything behind the scenes to stop this or whether they're completely impotent.
Something tells me we're not done with the "staff firing" story.
Lieberman thinks he can afford to burn bridges so he's torched everything behind him.
However, he's on a pier, not a bridge.
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