Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Happened to Lamont?

Among the few disappointments from last week's elections was Ned Lamont's defeat in Connecticut. I was hoping to see some analysis of the race from the FireDogLake writers who were active in the race and on the ground in CT throughout the campaign. But there, as well as across the blogosphere, I hadn't seen much until a FDL link to this post at Kos, as well as this from David Sirota.

To start I'll give my $1.23 worth of analysis. I think there were two main factors. One was Lamont the candidate. Lamont wasn't well known across the state. Unlike most of the successful Democrats last week, Lamont wasn't a state official or legislative member and nor had he ever run a state-wide or legislative race before. In the six races the Democrats won, state-wide officials or state or national legislators (or candidates who had previously held state office or run state wide) won in Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Only in Virginia did the winning Democratic candidate not have state-wide experience or a record in the national legislature.

Adding to the lack of name-recognition and public familiarity was Lamont's general lack of forcefulness as a candidate. Lacking a political base as well as a dominating personality, Lamont the candidate just wasn't able to make it work. My impression of this feature of the race is compounded by reading the campaign debriefings from the Kos poster and Sirota. Both engage in considerable hand-wringing over the Democratic Party's failure to go all out for Lamont, whether it was the lack of attention and resources from the Senate Campaign Committee or individual Democrats Lamont's boosters think should have hung out in the state working for Lamont. Now, it's been a while since I've been immersed in the nitty-gritty of a campaign, so maybe I'm underestimating how much this contributed to the result (especially given Lamont's low-public familiarity discussed above) but this argument nonetheless strikes me as rather weak. It seems to reflect the view that the candidate himself was rather weak and lacked the heft and persona to make his own case to the voters. This problem was probably compounded by the attention paid to the role of the netroots during and immediately after the party primary. Maybe it's the case that the national party put considerably more effort into Virginia and Montana than in Connecticut, but all in all, complaints of this nature strike me as indictative of the candidate's own weaknesses as a state-wide candidate for national office more than a reflection of the national party. Perhaps the voters in Connecticut wondered whether Lamont was his own man or not, needing bloggers and Democratic Party elites to campaign for him--a matter that might have also tended to reinforce the Lieberman meme that Lamont's backers were primarily from out of state (although of course, so were Lieberman's, especially the money and staffers provided by Republican NY Mayor Bloomberg).

In any event, two, and closely related to the first point, is the apparent decision by the state's Republican voters to throw their lot in with Lieberman. As I wrote in an email to Jane Hamsher, this strategy on the part of Connecticut's Republicans strikes me as odd and counter-intuitive to the facts on the ground. Consider: There were in effect, two Democrats and one Republican in the race. Even conceding this year was going to be a Democratic year, if Republicans had strongly supported their candidate, and let the two Democrats split the Democratic vote, Connecticut would probably have a Republican U. S. Senator. Instead, they will have Lieberman, who said during the campaign he'd caucus with the Democrats, making a Republican vote for him all the more odd. I know there have been posts on other blogs indicating Lieberman may caucus with the Republicans at some future date if he doesn't feel like he's getting his way with the Democrats in control. But that prospect from a Republican point of view sounds pretty uncertain to me.

So, that's what I suspect happened. Given that Lieberman was ahead in the polls after the primary as an "independent Democrat" it seems likely that whatever went on during the campaign, its effects on both sides appear to have been a wash.

And unfortunately, our Senate chamber will be graced with the phony moralizing and self-serving antics of Holy Joe for another six years. But I look forward to seeing Senators James Webb and Jon Tester, among others, in action soon.

No comments: