By DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN
August 9, 2006 -- Reports of Joe Lieberman's
political death are (as Mark Twain once said of rumors of his own demise)
"premature and grossly exaggerated." Lieberman has lost a battle, but he can
still win the war running as an independent.
While Ned Lamont will clearly have a bounce after
yesterday's primary victory, the Rasmussen Poll of July 20 showed Lieberman and
Lamont tied at 40 percent each in the general election (with scandal-plagued GOP
nominee Alan Schlesinger at 13 percent).
Those who would consign Lieberman to the dustbin of
history need to realize that the Democratic primary in Connecticut is an affair
that could be conducted in a good-sized phone booth. About 140,000 people voted
for Lamont. But the state saw 1,575,000 votes cast in the general election of
2004. Assume a lower turnout in 2006 (an off year), say 1 million votes, that
still leaves 860,000 that can vote for Lieberman.
The Connecticut incumbent can, of course, count on
the roughly 130,000 who backed him yesterday (aside from a few party regulars
who might find it necessary to fall into line and endorse the nominee).
Then, with the Republican plagued by reports of
huge gambling debts, Lieberman will strongly attract independent and GOP voters,
plus moderate Democrats who weren't energized enough by the Lamont challenge to
vote in the primaries.
In the general election, Lieberman can paint Lamont
(a former client of mine) as the rich, light-weight dilettante he is (heir to
the fortune of J.P. Morgan's partner) and can focus on the broad range of his
legislative agenda. After all, Lieberman has taken the lead on issues ranging
from campaign-finance reform to tobacco regulation to corporate-governance
reform to tough action against terrorism to the battle against global warming.
He'll look better and better, while Lamont will look like a one-issue challenger
who is out of his league.
Freed of the confines of the Democratic primary,
Lieberman can now appeal to independents, Republicans and mainstream Democrats
who were not sufficiently motivated to participate in the primary, he can win.
In the meantime, Lieberman's primary defeat sends a
message to all presidential contenders, particularly Sen. Hillary Clinton, that
they have to move to the left on the war or be buried by the party's
increasingly radical and leftist base. Al Gore is emerging as the one for her to
worry about in 2008. Anti-war from the start, riding the global warming issue
and a proven popular-vote winner, Gore will be increasingly attractive to the
same left-wing voters who nominated Lamont in Connecticut. Hillary's convoluted
flip-flops on the war won't play well in the primaries.
Eileen McGann co-authored this column.