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The New York Times reports that some Democrats fear they will lose the chance to unseat three House Republicans in Connecticut if Lieberman insists on his independent bid for re-election. The internecine war breaking out among Nutmeg State Democrats may bring out enough moderates to keep the seats in the hands of the GOP:
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman’s defeat on Tuesday in the Connecticut Democratic primary quickly spilled over into the battle for the House on Wednesday. Leaders of both parties said the Senate fight could influence three races in Connecticut considered crucial in controlling the House.
Republicans said a general election matchup in which Mr. Lieberman ran as an independent against Ned Lamont, the winner of the primary, could hinder Democrats in their efforts to unseat three incumbent representatives who are top Democratic targets.
Democrats disputed that and said the high-intensity Senate fight could help the Democratic challengers for the House seats by drawing Democratic voters to the polls.
The new focus on the Connecticut races developed as each party lost a House incumbent in primaries elsewhere. Those results reinforced recent polls and other analyses that found a level of deep voter unrest that spells trouble for officeholders of both parties but may be a particular problem for Republicans, who control the House and the Senate.
Democratic strategy for reclaiming the House depended on this voter disaffection in November, a not unusual impulse especially in second-term midterms. The Republicans occupying the three seats are not doctrinaire conservatives by any means; Christopher Shays not only sponsored the House version of McCain-Feingold (called Shays-Meehan in the House), he sued the Federal Elections Commission to get the legislation applied to the Internet.
Nevertheless, the Democrats saw them as highly vulnerable, given George Bush's low approval numbers and the even lower numbers for Congress. A two-way election between Ned Lamont and Alan Schlesinger would probably not entice moderates to the polls, the same moderates responsible for putting the three Republicans in office earlier. However, now that Lieberman has declared himself for his independent run, moderates who want his presence and seniority in the Senate know they cannot expect to achieve that unless they turn out in droves.
There is also another dynamic in play, one tha guaranteed Lieberman's continuance as well as a potential problem for the Connecticut Democratic Party. In the primary campaign's final weeks, the Lamont contingent made the race very ugly. Offering such epithets as "rape gurney Joe" and picturing Lieberman in blackface and in suggestive homosexual poses in doctored photographs gave the incumbent plenty of personal motivation to defeat these forces, regardless of any other considerations. They turned this election into a crusade for Lieberman, an opportunity to beat extremism.
That same dynamic may help Lieberman as well as the Republican candidates with the voters. No one who saw the end result of this race will go out of their way to endorse the campaign that generated the hatefulness. Lamont's sudden drop in support started too late to lose him an election that he appeared to have sewed up by a wide margin just days before may demonstrate the disgust of Connecticut voters with the Lamont campaign. That will play against Democratic challengers in the districts that have Republican incumbents, and if the Lieberman race generates a high turnout, then the extra voters will be more likely to support other moderates as well.
I wrote yesterday that the primary result gave Democrats their worst possible scenario. If this analysis proves correct, the netroots may have won a Senate primary but cost themselves the House.Sphere It View blog reactions
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