The Note: Pal Joey

WASHINGTON, August 9

If you want to understand the Lieberman story going forward, you have to play four-dimensional chess.

First Dimension: It is an article of faith among most elite Democrats that Joe Lieberman will get out of the race once he sees today's Democratic unity event in Hartford; once he understands how hard it will be to raise money; and once he starts getting insistent phone calls from his colleagues. Watch Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Tom Carper, and Bill Clinton. (Don't expect to hear from Al Gore anytime soon.) But anyone who watched Lieberman's morning show appearances can sense that the man is not going to quit (at least not easily, and not yet).

Second Dimension: It is an article of faith among most elite Democrats and among bloggers that Bush/Cheney/Rove/Mehlman can't win a third straight election painting the Democrats as the Jane Fonda Party (weak on defense, angry, vaguely anti-American) because Iraq has caused a tipping point with the American people. This is NOT an article of faith among Bush/Cheney/Rove/Mehlman, who know how to use the media's obsession with the Lieberman story to define the terms of the midterms. If you find odds you like, bet against the capacity of B/C/R/M to get this done, but The Note does not recommend you take that as an even bet.

Third Dimension: It is an article of faith among Democratic operatives who dropped in at the end to help Lieberman and among national political reporters who covered the race that the Lieberman effort was pathetically disorganized. In mechanics, scheduling, and message control, the primary campaign was a mess. Can Lieberman put the right people in place to run a strong general election campaign? If so, it is an article of faith at The Note that he CAN win this race; not necessarily WILL, but CAN. Also, watch behind the scenes for the war for the soul of Joe Lieberman (with his wife, children, and twin of a different mother -- Al From -- on one side, and most everyone else on the other). James Carville endorsed Lamont this morning; what about Carter Eskew?

Fourth Dimension: It is an article of faith among the press that this race is about Iraq. And it certainly is a lot about Iraq. But Lieberman is not all wrong when he also says it is about whether his party will tolerate bipartisanship as an affirmative good -- even with George Bush as president. For most Democrats (and certainly for the ones who nominated Ned Lamont), they are done with cooperating and, as one told The Note this morning, they are only for "bipartisanship when it is 'bi,'" and they don't think B/C/R/M have ever or will ever do their part to make it "bi." The fight to define what this race is ABOUT -- in Connecticut and nationally -- is just beginning.

The political universe will be dominated by reaction to Sen. Lieberman's primary defeat and his decision to pursue an independent candidacy between now and November.

Ned Lamont is expected to be joined by former Lieberman supporters Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo, and others at a unity rally on the steps of the capitol in Hartford, CT at 11:00 am ET.

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