WASHINGTON, August 7
It is a truth universally believed by the Gang of 500, national Democrats, leading Connecticut Democrats, and even some of Joe Lieberman's own advisers that he will badly lose tomorrow's Nutmeg State Democrat Senate primary to Ned Lamont and will then succumb to heavy pressure to drop out of the race and not run as an independent -- an announcement he will make by sundown on Wednesday.
Even before today's new Quinnipiac poll showing the race at Lamont 51, Lieberman 45 (narrowed from 54-41 last week), The Note was more optimistic about Lieberman's chances than, well, than pretty much anyone. There is just something squirrelly about an August primary that adds a measure of unpredictability to the whole thing.
Why has, per the Q-piac data, the race tightened? Perhaps (a) Lieberman's negative radio spots highlighting Lamont's membership in an exclusive country club (and other voter contact messages the press doesn't even know about -- yet); (b) The Note's beloved "natural tightening" phenomenon; (c) voters being drawn to Lieberman's "come home, Connecticut" message; (d) the Bill Clinton endorsement; or, (e) other.
Still, brace yourself for 36 hours of speculation about when Chris Dodd will say, "Joe, it is time to go." (Remember: there are no network exit polls tomorrow, so everyone we'll have to be patient, well into primetime.)
There will also be during those same 36 hours (and beyond) a lot more speculating and punditing about What It All Means if Lieberman loses.
One thing it means: a lot of voters are passionate about the Iraq issue.
However, some of the WIAMs speculation has been and will be overblown. We hate to rain on the Chattering Class parade, but there is a danger in over interpreting a Lieberman loss in the primary. (And, remember, The Note is certain that no Connecticut Democrats will base their votes on what is written here.)
Why Joe Lieberman's case is sui generis:
1. He is the most conservative Democratic Senator in a Blue State.
2. No other Democrat has said "in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril," or written a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece talking about how much progress had been made in Iraq. LINK
3. Most incumbent Senators, even if they have no obvious opposition, raise plenty of money, build competent campaign structures, and take issue positions intended to shore up their political standing. Lieberman did none of those things.
4. Connecticut is a very liberal, very anti-war state.
So take a deep breath or two before you start to (a) assume Lieberman will lose, or (b) assume that there are big implications for 2006 and/or 2008 if he does.
And/but while it is too early to call the race, learn lessons from its outcome, or game out the sequence by which David Lightman, Bill Clinton, John Sweeney, Carter Eskew, Howard Dean, and Chris Dodd will get Lieberman to end his planned indy bid, it isn't too early to be thinking about how the Senator might spend the next few years.
Joe Lieberman's one dozen post-Senate career options:
1. George W. Bush's second Secretary of Defense, replacing pal Donald Rumsfeld.
2. Move to Florida to take advantage of early bird specials.
3. Fox News Channel commentator.
4. Become a blogger: LINK
5. Form a political consulting firm with Dan Gerstein to advise losing candidates.
6. Editor of the New Republic.
7. Become Larry King's primary substitute and heir apparent.