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 ZÃºniga 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.