Lieberman Hires Republican Pollster

Joe Lieberman’s transformation into the quasi-Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate is nearly complete, now that he’s hired the top Republican polling firm.

Sen. Joe Lieberman continued retooling his campaign staff Friday, hiring a nationally known pollster and media consultant to assist in his independent re-election bid. Lieberman hired Democratic consultant Josh Isay, who has worked for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who lists popular Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell among his clients.

“They are not just among the best in their respective businesses, but they bring a deep knowledge of Connecticut from across the political spectrum, which will be essential to our effort to build a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and independents,” Lieberman said in a release.

Those of you who have followed my full disclosure notices are aware that my wife is a VP at POS; those who haven’t are now.

The move is generating a little buzz. TNR’s Jason Zengerle links to POS’ very long political client list and observes, “You won’t find any Democrats.”

Hotline’s Chuck Todd adds,

The more curious hiring, of course, is Newhouse, a partner in one of the most prestigious Republican polling firms in the country, Public Opinion Strategies. On the merits, Newhouse is a great hire as he and his firm have one of the best reputations in the business, both with their clients and with the media, including us. But what makes the hiring curious is that Newhouse is a Republican and has a slew of clients who will likely raise the ire of Democrats, particularly activist Democrats.

This cycle, Newhouse’s most notable client is PA Sen. Rick Santorum. (Subscribers, click here of The Hotline’s consultant scorecard.) The Lieberman release, of course, makes no mention of Santorum, but does note Newhouse’s client relationship with the very popular GOP CT Gov. Jodi Rell. Newhouse is also the chief pollster for one of the Democrats’ top House targets, CT 02 GOP Rep. Rob Simmons.

In ’04, the firm worked for the biggest Dem killer of the cycle, John Thune, who knocked off Tom Daschle. And in ’02, the firm’s biggest name client? None other than a Bush, Jeb Bush, that is, in FL.

It’s a surprising move, to be sure. POS has a varied public policy clientele but, as far as I know, has been exclusively Republican in its political clients through its fifteen year history. Then again, President Bush and RNC Chair Ken Mellman have all but endorsed Lieberman’s candidacy. Presumably, they’ve made the calculation that they’re not going to lose clients over this one.

With this and Santorum, they’ve easily got the two most high profile races this season. It’ll make for an interesting three months.

UPDATE: Looking through my old posts to see what I’ve written about Lieberman in the past (160-odd posts mention him, probably putting him behind only 2004 nominee John Kerry among active Senators) I came across this from December 2003:

I feel sorry for Lieberman and think he’s probably the Democrat currently in the race who is both most suited to govern and who would be the most appealing in the general election.* But he sold his soul to be Al Gore’s running mate, sacrificing much of his main selling point–integrity–in doing so. And he got nothing in return. The Democrat faithful still don’t like him all that much and even Gore isn’t grateful. Indeed, for a man who got elected to the Senate in part because of the active endorsement of National Review and the support of conservatives tired of Lowell Wiecker, it is somewhat ironic that he’s come full circle: the only people who support him now are Republicans.

That seems more true now than then. For example, SSP’s James L. is positively apoplectic in a post entitled “CT-Sen: Lieberman Hires Democrat Slayer” (Note to self: See if Neil already has this t-shirt.):

The most troubling bit about the news may rest in the fact that Newhouse’s other Connecticut client is Rep. Rob Simmons, who is a top target of the DCCC and Joe Courtney. Lieberman is now essentially using Republican tools, Republican capital, and Republican consultants to mobilize the same Republican voters that Courtney and the other Democratic challengers need to de-energize in order to win. The pure gall of this move is disgusting, and it paints a sharp picture that Lieberman is for himself and himself only. He doesn’t care about electing three new Democrats to the House–he’s more than willing to toss them overboard if it means he can work the Republican field and win.

I wonder how Lieberman’s Senate Democratic colleagues feel now that they know that Lieberman is paying the same guy who ended the political careers of Tom Daschle and Max Cleland. I wonder if they feel as good about letting Lieberman keep his seniority and committee assignments.

Or, maybe the Democrats should have re-nominated the 2000 VP candidate who helped make Florida a toss-up and who votes with the caucus 90% of the time?

UPDATE: Some discussion over at Crosstabs, although nothing yet from POS’ Rob Autry. Former POS’er Bob Moran is laughing hysterically–or as much as one can in text form, anyway.

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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. Anderson says:

    “Arise, my apprentice, and accept your new name — Darth Lieberman.”

  2. If you have more than one child, you will sometimes see the light dawn on them that doing something to the sibling that the sibling doesn’t like may just have the sibling do something back that the first child doesn’t like.

    Party purity on Iraq was seen as most important here, but not apparently on some others who voted for the war and continue to support it in the party. Now that the left has managed to push Lieberman out of there party they expect him to have some loyalty to that party? I have no idea how important it is to have a pollster “from” a party. But if he knows how to get a guy elected in a state that has 21% registered voters from his party, then I could see how those skills might be useful to Lieberman.

    Now if you want Lieberman to “play nice” with the other democrats in the state, I would think that a bit of silence about how you want to punish him with loss of seniority and committee assignments might be in order. Lieberman is going to be like any candidate and do his best to win this election, but after the election the left is either going to get to gloat, push Lieberman out of the party he has represented for years or kiss and make up. In short, when there is already a good chance you are going to have to eat crow, don’t start ordering seconds.

  3. It’s possible that Lieberman has been essentially blacklisted by folks that normally work with Democrats–or the Dems have essentially told anyone who works for Lieberman against Lamont that they’ll never work for another Democrat again. In that case, the only people with any experience Lieberman could hire would be people with a GOP background.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Could well be.

    Plus, POS is incredibly well positioned in Connecticut, having run both the incumbent governor’s polling and that of the prominent Republicans in the state for the past 15 years. And, frankly, they’re good at running against Democrats, which is what Lieberman is in the position of having to do. It’s a topsy turvy campaign.

  5. Jim Henley says:

    Party purity on Iraq was seen as most important here, but not apparently on some others who voted for the war and continue to support it in the party.

    If you read your own sentence you’ll see that it contains its own answer: Lieberman’s opponents aren’t seeking “party purity” on Iraq. (Would that they were!) If they were, they’d, indeed, have gone after all the pro-war Dems. But they haven’t. So apparently it’s not about “party purity on Iraq.” And indeed, it’s not. Lieberman is unique among pro-war Dems in vocally and repeatedly demonizing anti-Iraq war Dems as holding illegitimate views. That’s a purity test for you. And it goes well beyond just repeating the Republican Party’s own rhetoric about war opponents. Lieberman publicly said Dems must not criticize the President on the war or even “distrust” him.

    Tacitly accuse your fellow party members of being a fifth column and, like you say, you “may just have the sibling do something back that the first child doesn’t like.” Lieberman reaped the whirlwind of defining himself in opposition to his own party. Man’s a total prig too, which probably didn’t help.

    Now that the left has managed to push Lieberman out of there party they expect him to have some loyalty to that party?

    Wow. So getting defeated in a primary is getting pushed out of your party? How many times was Jack Kemp “pushed out” of the Republican Party, then? Rather a lot. Ronald Reagan got “pushed out of the Republican Party” in 1976. So I guess he ran as a Democrat in 1980.

    Lieberman could have done what all graceful primary losers do: accept the results; make a show of supporting the guy who beat him; getting a nice “government relations” job for a few years; and, bet on it, snagging himself a cabinet appointment in the next Democratic Administration. Instead, like many a politician before him, he’s confused his job with the nation’s soul.