Lieberman Could Save House for Republicans

An article in today’s NYT discusses the concerns of Democratic leaders that Joe Lieberman’s “independent” senate campaign will bring more Republicans to the polls, hurting the Democrats’ chances of winning a couple of key House races.

As Senator Joseph I. Lieberman begins to mount a vigorous and well-financed re-election campaign as an independent, many Connecticut Democrats say they are worried that his bid could jeopardize their party’s ability to win in three hotly contested House races this fall.

Mr. Lieberman, a centrist Democrat who lost in the Aug. 8 Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman, is now running on his own line. With polls showing that many Democrats are eager for a change, Democratic officials say they expect Mr. Lieberman to campaign aggressively to win over Republican and unaffiliated voters.

If he does, Democratic strategists say, he may well attract voters to the polls who are likely to support the state’s three Republicans in Congress: Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Christopher Shays.

As Steven Taylor notes, this would indeed be an ironic result of the purge of the impure from the Democratic ranks. Of course, the Republicans could wind up countering this if the hard liners are successful in knocking off the “RINOs” like Lincoln Chaffee and replacing them with candidates that would be great for Alabama but get trounced in swing states.

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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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    A more interesting question might be: If Lieberman does get back into Congress, will either party accept him into their ranks, or will he be forever a pariah, untrusted by either side?

  2. Kent G. Budge says:

    Being a pariah, untrusted by either side, has honorable historical precedents. Read: Winston Churchill.

    Sadly, Lieberman’s no Churchill.

  3. Michael says:

    I was wondering if you refer to every incumbent loss as a “purge of the impure”, of if you just think Lieberman’s case is special?

  4. I have a hard time imagining the democrats not welcoming Lieberman back with open arms. Start with the least likely scenario, the democrats win 6 seats. Pushing Lieberman away would be to take the victory that they won and squander it. Not going to happen.

    If you take the most likely scenario, that the democrats take some seats, but less than 6, then they could afford to push Lieberman away. But they would then be reinforcing their “soft on defense” image by pushing one of the few democrats who is not soft on defense out of the tent even when his liberal state returns him.

    The only way I see Lieberman caucusing with the democrats would be if the democrats forced him.

    As far as Chaffee goes, he looks well set to win the primary. Winning the general election is more problematical (I think the latest polls shows the election to be well within the margin of error), but Chaffee has a much better chance than his opponent. While a week is a long time in politics, it doesn’t look like the republicans are likely to emulate the democrats in this regard.

    I think Chaffee has about a 40% conservative rating. Not what the ‘Alabama’ republicans would like, but most likely much better than the democratic alternative. I think the vast majority of ‘Alabama’ republican voters are smart enough to realize that it is better to have someone who will caucus with your party and vote with the party 40% of the time than the alternative to losing the seat to the democrats and having someone in the seat who would vote less than 40% of the time with the GOP.

  5. legion says:

    Good points, YAJ. If Lieberman is the knife-edge between an otherwise evenly-didived Senate, he will wield enormous power… IF he wins his own election. It’s a huge gamble, but one with with an equally-huge payoff…

  6. Michael says:

    You all forget, Joe is “principled” remember? Even if he is required for either party to get the majority, openly submitting to this party or that so he can get (or keep) his chairmanships would be an absolute sellout, not just by him, but by that party as well. I don’t think either side will want to pay Joe’s ransom if it comes to that.

  7. Matthew says:

    How likely is it that Lieberman will attract Republicans who would not otherwise vote?

    The argument quoted by the NYT is based on the premise that Lieberman will bring significant Reps who would otherwise stay home and that this will offset any additional Dems who might be energized by Lamont.

    And then when we turn to individual House districts, I would venture that that there are more Lamont-energized Dems in the winnable districts currently held by Reps than there are Lieberman-energized Reps who would otherwise stay home in those same districts.