Matt Stoller, Debate Train to Crazy Town has the scoop on what’s happening in Connecticut. Basically, Lamont’s campaign made errors after he won the primary. They coasted, rested, recharged, lost the initiative. Lieberman surged, taking some Democratic votes and all the Republican ones.
But all of a sudden, thanks to the first three-way debate, and to the second five-way debate, both marked by an inspired no-holds-barred performance from the Republican candidate, it’s a horse race again, as the GOP voters have a reason to come home; and if they do that means squeezing Lieberman. So anyone could win.
You know you’re in an incredible political environment when you’re at an event where egomaniac Ralph Nader is wandering around, and not only is no one paying attention to him, but Ralph Nader himself doesn’t even expect anyone to pay attention to him. That was the scene earlier today in Hartford, CT, where five candidates went at each other, or mostly at Joe Lieberman, for the Senate nomination in a debate. I wasn’t feeling so good about this race a few weeks ago; it had stagnated, and the polling reflected that and will still reflect that for a week or so. Today, I think there was a decisive shift both in the dynamic of the race and in the tone of the political environment.
It’s not that Lamont has overperformed, or that Joe has melted down, it’s that Connecticut Election 2006 has gone off the deep end. It’s not your normal white picket fence suburban election, with attack ad facing attack ad. No, this is more like a white picket fence election that suddenly gets bored with life and decides to live in the forest, take a bunch of LSD, trout-fish naked, and taunt a bear cub before ending its life suddenly and with total and inexplicable resolution on November 7. Well not really, but there’s no analogy that I can think of summarizing what’s going on. What has happened is that Joe Lieberman competed in a Democratic primary, lost, and is now competing in a Republican primary, and is losing again. Meanwhile, Lamont is finally picking up renewed steam and getting back on track as a candidate. There’s energy here, real energy.
There’s lots more where that came from. Including this bit, which echoes what I’d suddenly started worrying about:
All in all, it was an impressive, serious debate, and I don’t think you could look at it as anything but a clear victory for Ned Lamont and Alan Schlesinger. Alan Schlesinger says he’s getting in money now, and he’s going to go on TV. I actually think Alan’s Perot-style message is quite resonant, and that in a totally freakshow moment he could pull enough votes from Lieberman and Lamont to eke out a weird 37% victory. That’s not likely, but it’s in the realm of the possible. …
… I think it’s pretty clear that the anti-establishment wave that’s collapsing Republicans all over the country is beginning to crumple Lieberman, just in time. Alan Schlesinger is the first candidate I’ve seen who is genuinely tapping into the frustration grassroots conservatives feel with their party, because he’s very clearly not supported by the establishment or even President Bush. As a result, Lieberman has to now make the electability argument to conservative voters, and that’s never an easy place to be since it makes your message more complicated.