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July 20, 2006
Lieberman Slides Into Second

Joe-Mentum apears to have failed the former Democratic VP candidate in his upcoming primary. Ned Lamont has cruised into the lead despite worries over his single-issue campaign according to a new Quinnipiac poll, 51-47:

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. ...

"Lamont has turned what looked like a blowout into a very close Democratic primary race," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D.

"Lamont is up, while Lieberman's Democratic support is dropping. More Democrats have a favorable opinion of Lamont, who was largely unknown last month, and see him as an acceptable alternative to Lieberman. But Lieberman's strength among Republicans and independents gives him the lead in a three-way matchup in November."

Schwartz isn't kidding about the three-way matchup, and it's easy to see why Lieberman felt justified in opening an independent bid as a back-up plan. In a three-way race against Lamont and Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger, Lieberman gets 51% of the vote. Lamont only gets 27%, a 24-point gap. Schlesinger gets the die-hard GOP votes at 9%, which speaks volumes about both the candidate and the party in Connecticut.

With that kind of support from the general electorate, Lieberman can (and likely will) argue that his independent bid is justified by popular sentiment. And while Lamont has made himself a darling of the hard Left in Connecticut, it doesn't translate into a November win. The Republicans supporting Lieberman would run to Schlesinger's side if Lieberman dropped out of the race, and some moderate Democrats might follow, depending on Schlesinger's campaign.

A Lieberman primary victory would be the best outcome for the Democrats; it would keep the state's party from fracturing in the general election. It doesn't look good for that result at the moment. Lamont may well top Lieberman in the first round, but an eventual Lieberman victory looks all but assured. That means that the national party leaders will have to be very careful in how they support Lamont, if they decide to do so at all. If they antagonize Lieberman enough, he may give Democrats a few more headaches in the next session of Congress. (via The Moderate Voice and Taegan Goddard)

UPDATE: I erred in saying that Lieberman would get 68% in the three-way race; he gets 68% in a two way race against Alan Schlesinger. Interestingly, Lieberman has a 55% overall approval rating in his state, but it drops down to 47% among Democrats. It's 70% among Republicans, even though Lieberman votes almost dead center of the Senate Democratic caucus. That's probably the war effect.

Here's something the poll report didn't mention -- Ned Lamont and Alan Schlesinger in a two-way race, without Lieberman. Lamont leads 45-22, with 24% undecided. That's a gain for Lamont from two months ago, all of which has come from the Undecided ranks.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 20, 2006 8:59 AM

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