What’s The Significance Of A Lamont Win For The Netroots?

Over at The Corner today, Byron York wonders if a Lamont victory tomorrow will “truly be the Triumph of the Blogs” and provides some interesting numbers concerning the netroots and Lamont’s campaign war chest:

A new poll of the Lamont-Lieberman race has Ned Lamont ahead in Connecticut, 51-45. A look at the lefty blogs shows that the netroots types are trying very hard to keep their excitement in check, despite the recent polls — cautious optimism is all they will allow themselves.

Of course, if Lamont wins, it will be the Triumph of the Blogs. But looking at campaign finance reports this morning, it’s hard to see that that would be the real meaning of a Lamont victory.

According to PoliticalMoneyLine, Lamont had raised $4,116,131 through July 19. (The figures are undoubtedly much higher now.) But $2,501,500 of that came from one contributor: Ned Lamont. Nearly all the rest, $1,607,371, came in contributions from individuals. (Lamont, in a point of great pride, listed just $3,784 from PACs.)

Now go to actblue.com, the clearinghouse for most netroots fundraising. According to figures on the site, which are likely much more up to date than the FEC records on PoliticalMoneyLine, Lamont has raised $298,068 from individuals contributing through blogs that take part in actblue. The site breaks down the figures by individual blogs or groups of blogs. For example, a consortium of three blogs, Firedoglake (featuring the hot blogger of the moment in Connecticut, Jane Hamsher), DownWithTyranny, and Crooks&Liars, has raised $60,123.33 from 1,354 donors. The larger Netroots Candidates group, coordinated through MyDD, has raised $104,543 from 2,913 contributions. Smaller blogs have raised far less; myleftwing, for example, has raised $100.

So what does this say? Because of reporting times, the figures don’t quite match up (Lamont has surely contributed a lot more to himself by now), but the rough numbers are these: Lamont has raised $4.1 million, $2.5 million of which came from himself and $298,000 of which came from bloggers. Now, $298,000 is not nothing. But is it the sort of fundraising power that will upend Democratic Party politics? And will a Lamont victory truly be the Triumph of the Blogs?

Later, Byron adds his two cents in another post:

If Lamont wins, it would be the first victory for the netroots after more than a dozen defeats, so the celebration would be deafening. And they would deserve some credit; certainly the bloggers injected a lot of energy into the race. In addition, as far as news coverage is concerned, they used their (temporary) advantage of being the newest new thing. “There’s a premium on bloggers now,” a Center for American Progress trainer told would-be blogger-pundits at the YearlyKos convention in June. “There is a window following this conference to try to make yourselves available to the media…You are the new cool kids on the block, and you should leverage that now.”

But in terms of money, which is the thing about the blogs that originally got Democratic politicians’ attention, a Lamont victory would show that the netroots at a fever pitch of enthusiasm can help a largely self-financed candidate win. Again, that’s not nothing. But it’s not a revolution, either.

Given Lamont’s lead in the polls over Lieberman on the eve of Connecticut’s Democratic primary, it’s interesting to contemplate how much responsibility for Lamont’s rise belongs to the liberal blogosphere. Byron seems to be concluding that the netroots have had somewhere between a modest and significant impact.

As for myself, I’m not entirely convinced that they have been all that significant in building support for Lamont within Connecticut which, after all, is really the only thing that counts. There is certainly no doubt that the netroots have steered the national spotlight onto this race. But does the ability to bring attention actually equal influence? Power? I’m not really convinced that it does.

For example, I recently moved back to Connecticut after six years in Washington, D.C. and what I have noticed is that people don’t just dislike Lieberman. They loathe him. My dad–a raging lib–had never heard the name Markos Moulitsas Zúniga until I asked him if he knew who he was. And he’s certainly more well-read and politically knowledgeable than the average Connecticutian. He’s supporting Lamont because he’s furious with the war in Iraq and appalled by what he perceives as Lieberman’s unwillingness to confront the Bush administration. Similarly, as I was going into the grocery store last week, I witnessed an exchange between a Lieberman supporter asking individuals to sign a petition and a man walking into the store. When asked if he would sign the petition, the man blurted out, “Joe Lieberman is a liar and he has betrayed me and the state of Connecticut.” It really doesn’t get any more simple than that, does it?

Now I realize that this is all anecdotal, but I think that it goes to the argument that there is a visceral hatred among liberals in Connecticut for Lieberman as the result of transference from President Bush. And while it’s certainly true that liberal bloggers have played a critical role in shaping the image of Lieberman as Bush’s lapdog in the blogosphere, it’s not known whether this has had any effect on how the vast majority of voters in Connecticut view Lieberman. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that, perhaps, the netroots have had no effect whatsoever.

And now a couple “if’s.” If Lamont wins tomorrow, there will be much self-congratulation among liberal bloggers. And, to some degree anyway, it will be warranted. But even if one thinks that Lamont owes everything to the netroots, all his win will demonstrate is that liberal bloggers can help you win a Democratic primary in one of the bluest states in the country. The question will then remain as to whether the netroots can help a candidate win a general election or possibly help the candidate lose. And if Lieberman loses tomorrow, we might see the answer to that question play out.

UPDATE: Allah Pundit has some thoughts on this not to mention a nice round-up too.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Donkey Cons co-author and Washington Times editor Robert Stacy McCain has some interesting thoughts on this at FrontPage Magazine in a piece entitled “Lamont’s Folly.” The lede:

If Karl Rove had a secret plan to destroy the Democratic Party, he could scarcely have dreamed up a more brilliant gambit than Ned Lamont’s primary challenge to Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

I agree with him on the specifics although think there’s a tendency to overstate the larger impact of these things. The Dems have gone over the cliff a few times before and always manage to arise, like Wile E Coyote, to fight another day.

Still, throwing overboard a beloved, three term Senator who’s with the Dems probably 75% of the time in exchange for, at best, an amateur Democrat who will start off untrusted by his colleagues or, at worst, a Republican who never would have had a prayer against Lieberman, is just insane.

Then again, Bill Buckley, Tom Scott, and company did the same thing to Lowell Weicker 18 years ago and the GOP has managed to survive–if not ever regain that Senate seat.

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Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,


  1. walter66 says:

    seems like a lot of interest on the right about the Lieberman Lamont thing…..why is that?

  2. Any celebration of the netroots prior to the general election would be premature. If they succeed in knocking Lieberman off in the primaries, but Lieberman stays on as an independent to win the general election, then there impact will at most be limited to influencing the democratic party to commit party suicide in 2008. Pushing an unacceptable to the general voting population candidate through the democratic primary is not a sign of strength, just an indication of a pair of hands pushing forward the stick as they try to get control of the air plane.

    If a real shocker happens and the republicans manage to win because the democratic vote is split between the two L’s (least likely scenario, but one you can’t dismiss), then they will be in the cross hairs of every democrat (especially if the democrats pull out a miracle of winning five other seats, lose none of their own and lose Lieberman’s seat in the scenario I described).

    Even if Lamont wins, I suspect they will not be as happy with Lamont as they are now as he looks to get his 2.5 million back by attracting the usual suspect money into his campaign. Most candidates ‘loan’ their campaign money so that if they win, other donors can contribute and let them call the loans back (with interest?).

    We are also talking about an extremely blue state. If the netroots could come in here and make a serious run at knocking Kay out of the Texas race, then I would say that they are having a big impact. Of course the chances of that are even less than for a democrat to win a state wide election here in Texas.

  3. Len says:

    Greg forgot to mention that a Lamont victory tomorrow will also be viewed as a defeat for the right wing bloggers. They’ve been fighting very, very hard for Lieberman. So hard, in fact, that if I didn’t know better I would think old Joe is a Republican.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Len: I think very few “right wing bloggers” are “fighting for Lieberman.” We’re mostly interested in this from both the standpoint of bloggers influencing a party primary in a way none thought possible and from the perspective that it’s simply insane to toss aside a guy who was the VP nominee six years ago.

    Of course, the irony that the Republican punditocracy did essentially the same thing eighteen years ago to drive Lowell Weicker out and put Joe Lieberman is in at least mildly ironic for those of us who’ve been around that long.

  5. Len says:

    James, I think Gore’s selection of Lieberman six years ago was a huge mistake. It was done to appease some people that it ended up not appeasing at all. Lieberman did not help Gore in that campaign one iota.

    Many Democrats don’t look at this from the perspective that we’re tossing Joe. We think he’s tossed us. If you’re not going to represent the people who elected you, what good are you?

    We’ll see tomorrow what the Democrats of Connecticut think. Lamont has already said he’ll support the winner of the primary. I hope Lieberman turns out to be man enough to do the same.

  6. dom says:

    I think this post is quite right. I lived in CT for a long time – and I hope Lamont wins – but the idea in much of the blogosphere that (a) his potential win is entirely the making of the liberal blogs or (b) that it has deeply significant and broad meaning for the entire Dem party seems a bit much.

    Sites like DailyKos are certainly due some credit if Lamont wins, but in this case they’ve tapped into existing sentiment. CT is a very blue state. Lieberman is a Democrat who is to the right of the national party. I think the Lamont “insurgency” signifies that many CT Democrats no longer feel Lieberman represents their views – sometimes it’s really just that simple.

  7. lily says:

    I think it was Matt Stoller on MYDD who gave the best explanation of the limited power of blogs. he called it the virus method. Basically his theory is that blogs expand word-of-mouth, letting people who don’t have the money for media buys contact a lot of other people. So, he said, blogs have power in a stealthy way as in Tester’s win in Montana, or the early days of Busby’s campaign in California. However, once the media notices a race, and the big money starts pouring in, the blogs are over matched.
    This makes sense to me and it certainly explains a lot abut the Lamont/ Lieberman race. Blogs helped to make Lamont’s campaign be more effective than it would have been without them, but are not competitive against the huge amounts of money Leiberman’s masters are able to throw into the campaign. If the election was in another two weeks, I think a Lieberman win would be likely.
    Right now, who knows?

  8. Tano says:

    I find it to be so bizarre how so many people speak of the “netroots” as if this were some strange, bizarre new factor in politics that one must poke and probe and speculate about, as if it were some unknown new creature that washed up on the beach. The “netroots” is simply a electronic version of good ol’ political activism. OF course the netroots will deserve great credit if Lamont wins – they have been the loudest, most passionate, most exicted and activist part of his campaign. That type of a faction has always driven campaigns, even those of the 18th century. The fact that it is done electronically rather than in the park in front of the courthouse, makes no real difference.

    Another thing that is a real head scratch – how so many people are so out of touch with the mainstream of American thought. One would think that the political junkie class – those who read every poll, follow not only the news but reams of political analysis from the experts and the amateurs, that these people would be experts at surfing on the twisting changing currents of political thought. But they seem rather to be static dinosaurs who glom onto a picture of political reality, then hold on for dear life, even if (or especially if) the landscape starts shifting again.

    I refer especially to this notion that a Lamont victory would somehow represent a leap off the lefty cliff for the Democrats. Hello people. Do you not realize that Bush-thinking is now firmly rejected by a large majority of the American people? That an equally large majority of Americans (to say nothing of NewEnglanders) views the war as a mistake, the administration as guilty of authoritarian overreach, and have greater confidence in Democratic ideas than Republican ideas on EVERY issue – even the WOT? So by what bizzare calculation can one conclude that voting for Lamont, who is dead center in the middle of the American mainstream, is a risk for a party, when the alternative is someone who stands up for policies that the American people are in the final stages of firmly rejecting?