Bush Refuses to Back GOP Candidate over Lieberman

Although the Republican Party is running a candidate to vy for the Connecticut U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Joe Lieberman, the GOP establishment is refusing to endorse him. Taegan Goddard reports, “White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said this morning that President Bush will not endorse Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Alan Schlesinger (R) over Sen. Joe Lieberman even though he’s the Republican nominee.” This follows a similar stance by RNC chair Ken Melmann last week.

Given Lieberman’s support on the war, at a time when supporters are scarce, Republican leaders would be reluctant to endorse a token nominee with zero chance of taking the seat. Given that Lieberman is scarcely leading a three-way race over virulent war opponet Ned Lamont, this is hardly surprising.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. spacemonkey says:

    More proof, as if we needed it, that Bush is no conservative. He’s not even a good republican anymore.

    Don’t get me wrong, I voted for him twice and support the war, troops etc.

    Bush, on the other hand, is getting harder and harder to support.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Schlesinger is a corrupt politician who got the nomination as a placeholder in a safe Democratic seat. The fact that Lieberman lost the primary obviously put everything into a tailspin but it hardly makes sense for the president to back the guy in third place.

  3. SoloD says:

    This is too transparent to have much of an effect.

    The real issue will be whether Lamont can transform himself from a one issue candidate. If he can, he has a real chance of winning, if he can’t Lieberman will prevail.

  4. legion says:

    I disagree. Liebermans’s in a no-win situation – he may get a lot of republican votes in the general election, but he’ll get hardly any dem votes. The only way he can succeed is to be able to pull the dems that rejected him in the primary back his way. He can only do that by distancing himself from Bush and improving his liberal street cred. But every step he takes in that direction moves him away from the repub voters…

  5. Legion,

    Your comment may reflect how you want reality to be, but doesn’t bear up in light of the exit polls and subsequent polling. He can easily give up the 52% of dems who rejected him in return for a split of the republicans and independents.

    I do see the irony in the democrats not endorsing the democratic incumbent and the republicans not endorsing the republican challenger. But as James pointed out, given the stances of the candidates and parties and the chances of any given candidate of winning, it isn’t surprising.

  6. Pug says:

    There is no irony in Democrats not endorsing the incumbent. Lieberman was endorsed by almost every prominent Democrat in the primary, but he lost and now they have to back the candidate chosen by the voters.

    The Republicans openly backing Lieberman will hurt him eventually. He becomes the default Republican and will ose support because of it.

  7. Michael says:

    Pug is right, Lamont campaigned on the meme that Lieberman was more Republican than Democrat. Having Bush and Melmann praising him and refusing to back their own party’s candidate in favor of him, will only give Lamont’s stance more credibility, and will likely win over much more than 52% of the Democratic vote. Lieberman won’t win 100% for the Republican vote, some CT Republicans must still be conservative enough to support a conservative candidate over a liberal. So Lieberman’s only real chance is taking a big part of the Independent vote, but so far he’s trying to be both a Democrat and a Republican, not Independent at all. We’ll see how this plays, but I don’t see Lieberman being able to hold ground until November.

  8. Michael says:

    For those who claim that Lieberman will win because of the Independent vote, please tell me on what issues will he be more popular among Indies than Lamont or Schlesinger?

    The only possible issue is Iraq, and I’m betting that CT being more liberal that the US average, more Independents will support troop withdrawal than open-ended occupation.

  9. Michael,

    Assuming Schlesinger gets the percentage he polled right after the primary (6%), that the rest go for Lieberman (not an unreasonable assumption), that Lieberman gets 75% of the democrats who supported him (so 75% of his 48% of democratic primary voters) and the independent voters break in the same way as the democratic primary voters (52% for Lamont, 48% for Lieberman and none for Schlesinger), then Lieberman would win by about 5 points. So adjusting for a bit more or less support from any candidate would seem reasonable. Note that the 6% and 75% came from polls in CT (either exit polls or regular polls).

    If 48% of the democratic primary voters could prefer Lieberman over Lamont, is it really so hard to imagine that a similar percentage of independent voters could split between Lamont and Lieberman.

    Further, given that the polls show Lieberman up by about 5 points, it would seem that this math isn’t to hard to believe. While you may not agree with Lieberman, do you really have trouble seeing how others could support him?

  10. legion says:

    Your math is OK, but your assumptions are not – just because x% of people voted a certain way in the primary in no way implies they’ll vote the same way on election day. The general thought behind a primary is that guy who loses is out – that doesn’t hold in this race. I don’t think any statistical models relating how people vote in the general vs. the primary will hold water here.

    Yeah, my comments reflect my assumption on how certain things will turn out, but there are still way too many variables to predict the outcome of this one at all… there’s no guarrantee Joe will lose, but there’s equally little reason to bet that he’ll win.

  11. Michael says:

    No doubt if the general election were held today Lieberman has a good chance of winning. However, it’s not November yet, and there is still a lot of campaigning left to be done in CT. The whole point of my second post was about this, what will Lieberman campaign on between now and November? It seems so far that his only campaign message is “A vote for Lamont is a vote for Al Qaeda”, which of course echos Bush’s campaign against Kerry in 04, a similarity Lamont is already using to his advantage. In the mean time, he’ll be up against both Lamont and Schlesinger’s campaigns who will by trying to split independents amongst themselves. Lamont will paint him as being too conservative and Bush-friendly for Democrats, and Schlesinger will paint him as too liberal and Clinton-friendly for Republicans. Given his campaign history thus far, I just don’t see how he can manage to hold onto the numbers he has.