Lieberman Blogged Down in Connecticut

There are any number of reasons why Sen. Joe Lieberman got slaughtered like a Paschal Lamb on Tuesday night in his primary battle to hold on to his Senate seat, losing to anti-war multimillionaire Ned Lamont, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Chief among them: the former Democratic vice presidential nominee's support for the extremely unpopular war in Iraq.

At Lamont headquarters Tuesday night, crowds chanted "Bring them home!," a reference to U.S. troops.

An anti-incumbency mood is also sweeping the nation. Private polls indicate that more than 90 percent of Connecticut Democrats feel the United States is on the "wrong track" -- a staggeringly high number.

In addition, Lamont, worth several hundred million dollars, was able to give his own campaign at least $4 million.

There is also no question that bloggers -- those online diarists simultaneously celebrated as a bold, new generation of citizen activists and derided as nasty socially challenged scribblers on a virtual bathroom wall -- played a major role as well.

On highly trafficked national Web sites such as the Daily Kos, bloggers sent Lamont money, roused activists, drew attention, and influenced public opinion.

Their love was not unrequited.

Lamont featured Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas in one of his TV ads and had a special suite for bloggers at his Meriden, Conn., victory headquarters Tuesday night.

"The best benefit that blogs can provide a campaign is actually to build buzz," Moulitsas said on "Nightline" last month. (LINK)

"We write about them. We talk about them. The traditional media now start picking up on races, you know, and generate local stories. … We're really a buzz machine, and if you create enough buzz, then … one of the side effects of buzz is money."

Other blogs and liberal Web sites provided bloggers with lists of voters, so as to encourage "Get Out the Vote" activities.

Lamont, loath to be portrayed as a fringe blogger candidate, is currently downplaying how important blogs and online activist groups such as Moveon.org were to his campaign.

At a campaign stop in Bridgeport, Conn., just hours before his victory, however, he said that bloggers had been key early on when the traditional media didn't think he had much of a chance.

"There were these guys on the netroots -- guys on the Internet -- that sort of took a look and said, 'Look, I don't know a lot about Ned Lamont, but I know a lot about Lieberman, so go hear what Lamont has to say, he'll be up at Naples pizza at 5 p.m. this evening,' and all of a sudden we had not 25 people but 125 people, and that was the beginning of something."

Blogs, like the people behind them, vary widely.

On one blog, you might find incisive commentary and brilliant analysis; on another, you might see angry and ugly name-calling.

It was the latter that bothered Lieberman.

"Do I get personally offended by some of the awful hatred that's on the blogs against me? Of course I get hurt by that," Lieberman said to ABC News on Tuesday at a campaign stop in Stratford, Conn. "But you go on."

Lieberman criticized Lamont's campaign last week when Jane Hamsher, a film producer and blogger with the Huffington Post who worked closely with the Lamont campaign, posted a picture of Lieberman in blackface.

On Tuesday, Lieberman's campaign insinuated that there might have been some connection between the anti-Lieberman online activists and the person or persons who had hacked into the campaign Web site and e-mail.

Lanny Davis, Lieberman friend and former Clinton White House counsel, found much in the blogosphere that disgusted him, writing an op ed in The Wall Street Journal.

In the op ed, he cited numerous ad hominem and anti-Semitic postings about Lieberman on popular blogs.

Davis also relayed an anecdote about a Democratic lawyer who, after asking Lamont some tough questions, had heard that "some of his clients were blitzed with e-mails attacking him and threatening boycotts of their products if they did not drop him as their attorney. He has actually decided not to return to Connecticut for the primary today; he is fearful for his physical safety."

It's unclear whom Davis was referring to, but Moulitsas doesn't make any bones about the tenor of the blogosphere.

"I learned to talk the way I do in the U.S. Army," he said, "and we don't mince words. In politics, I don't see it any different."

"I see it as a battlefield. We didn't create this political environment, the Republicans did."

Until the Anne Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the world temper their rhetoric, the bloggers won't back off either, Moulitsas says.

"[E]very once in a while we use an f-word. That's not a bad thing. That's what war looks like. That's what a battlefield looks like."

Moulitsas and other bloggers have publicly downplayed their role in Lamont's insurgency, but politicians are now indisputably awestruck by Lieberman's defeat and curious about the role played by the Internet, including fundraising or the use of the popular video Web site YouTube.com, which featured thousands of anti-Lieberman and pro-Lamont videos, ranging from a spoof of the Lieberman-Bush embrace to repeats of snarky mockery of Lieberman from Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.

"A victory for Lamont is a victory for the bloggers," political analyst Norm Ornstein said.

"It means that just as candidates for president make their obligatory visits to the county chairs of the party in Iowa, they're all going to [be] making visits to these people operating out of their living rooms in their underwear just offering their views on the world, who up to now haven't had anybody but a handful of friends paying attention. And all of a sudden, they're giant killers," Ornstein said.