The Senate and the Tide
It seems likely now that next Tuesday will see a Democratic tide, affecting state offices and the U.S. House of Representatives. It is also likely that the Democrats will pick up some seats in the Senate, but control of the Senate is another matter.
There are five contests now virtually tied. If incumbents or incumbent parties lose in all of them, the Republicans would lose Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, but the Democrats would lose Maryland and New Jersey. There are all kinds of combinations of how this may actually break, with the least likely possibility being that the Republicans win them all.
Still, unless the anti-Republican tide is truly historic, the Senate will likely go to one party or the other by two votes, one vote or to the Republicans if it comes out 50-50 (because VP Cheney is the tie-breaking vote.)
So this magnifies the importance of a race that nobody is talking about much: Connecticut. Senator Joe Lieberman, elected as a Democrat, was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ned Lamont. Lieberman is running as an independent, and contrary to many predictions, he is solidly ahead in the polls.
Even in the blogosphere, early enthusiasm for Lamont (and it was the blogosphere that gave him momentum to close the gap and win the primary) has become dark grousing, as in this post at Firedoglake complaining that prominent Democrats (except for John Kerry and Wesley Clark) are not going to Connecticut to campaign for Lamont. The conventional wisdom also has been that as an independent at the bottom of the ballot, Lieberman could not mount a Get Out the Vote operation on election day to get his voters to the polls. Now it's been announced that he is "borrowing" the GOTV operation of Republican Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York City. That means money and bodies, and it's a big blow to the Lamont campaign.
In his campaign, Lieberman has been getting a lot of help and support from Republicans, including from the White House. He has not endorsed Democratic candidates for the House in Connecticut. The Senate Democrats are in a bind, apparently. It was rumored after the primary that there was heavy pressure on Lieberman to get out of the race, and talk of stripping him of his considerable Senate seniority and committee assignments. But clearly some of his Senate colleagues are worried about alienating him, since the polls say he is likely to win.
It is all shaping up then to mean that the flow of power in the U.S. Senate for the next two years will largely depend on one man--Joe Lieberman. In an evenly divided Senate, or even with a one vote majority, he is the unknown quantity. And given all the Republican help that may get him elected against his former party's nominee, it is not likely to be good news for Democrats.
So maybe this is a race that Democrats ought to be paying more attention to. They can't afford to lose more than two of those five Senate elections if they don't want to have to deal with Joe Lieberman, the man without a party, but maybe with a lot of grudges.
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