Are The Lefty Bloggers To Blame For The Mess In The Connecticut Senate Race?

by John Hawkins | November 3, 2006 9:09 am

Now if Ned lamont were to somehow miraculously pull out a win on Tuesday of next week, everyone knows that the netroots would take all the credit for it — and they’d have at least a little justification for it. After all, there’s no way Ned Lamont would have beaten Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Primaries without the liberal bloggers pushing ole Nedmentum so hard.

But, since Lamont’s campaign has tanked and Lieberman is going to steamroll him, the lefty bloggers have abandoned him and there’s some discussion over whether they bear any responsibility for the whole debacle[1]:

“Down more than a dozen points in the polls, Mr. Lamont has practically become a self-financed candidate, pouring $12.7 million of his own money into his campaign to compensate for lackluster fund-raising. He is sorely missing the grassroots fervor and national attention he enjoyed early on, when he was the darling of the blogosphere and the bellwether of Democratic politics. Mr. Lamont is making a last-ditch effort to refocus his message on Iraq and regain his prior momentum, but it seems to be too little, too late.

Democratic strategists and consultants, some of them sympathetic to the campaign, are already talking about it in the past tense.

“I think it was possible for Lamont to pull it off,” said Bob Shrum, a veteran political analyst. “There were moments right after the primary where it was basically a tied race.”

The apparent end of the much-ballyhooed Lamont phenomenon is causing a great deal of soul-searching and recrimination in all corners of the Democratic Party. The bloggers that once championed Mr. Lamont as an awkward but earnest savior now alternately blame Washington’s strategists for hijacking their candidate and Democratic leaders for abandoning him. Beltway consultants fault the Lamont campaign for failing to move the candidate beyond his left-wing celebrity and define him for a greater electorate.

“You know, it’s Ned Lamont’s campaign,” said Mr. Lamont.

He bristled at the suggestion that he got caught in the middle of a Democratic power struggle and argued that the party had come around to his message on Iraq. “I’d like to think we’ve made a small difference in that, but more important, I think the nation is reaching the same conclusions we were at, about a year ago, that it is time for that change.”

…The commercials that the campaign ran after the primary seemed to appeal much less to a general audience than to Mr. Lamont’s base of liberal primary voters. The ads—produced by the firm of Bill Hillsman, who helped Jesse (the Body) Ventura become governor of Minnesota—were unorthodox, to say the least. The kooky ones featured Mr. Lamont singing Wang Chung songs, flipping burgers and beaming in front of crowds of young, energized voters. The negative ones—and there were plenty—featured Mr. Lieberman morphing into George Bush, crashing into a brick wall or echoing Richard Nixon.

The campaign did make some efforts to reposition itself for a general election. Hillary Clinton, who held a fund-raiser for Mr. Lamont, loaned him Howard Wolfson, one of her most trusted consultants, as an unpaid advisor. Stephanie Cutter, Sen­ator Ted Kennedy’s spokeswoman—who also worked as director of communications for John Kerry’s Presidential campaign—came on board and eventually helped prep Mr. Lamont for the debates.

“I don’t think there is any question that he helped lead, shape and change the dialogue around this issue,” said Mr. Wolfson, who remained bullish about Mr. Lamont’s chances and refused to acknowledge any tension within the campaign. “Every campaign is a group of disparate voices.”

Still, bloggers held Mr. Wolfson responsible for the campaign’s derailment. This month, the left-wing Huffington Post compiled its readers’ grievances about the fizzling campaign into a premature concession speech for Mr. Lamont.

“I turned my campaign over to hired guns who think that running to the middle is a winning strategy—even though it’s proven to be a loser time and time and time again,” the post read.

In a recent post for his popular left-wing political blog MyDD, Matt Stoller called Democratic leaders “moral lepers” for abandoning Mr. Lamont.

“What I have seen in this race is a complete abrogation of responsibility on the part of everybody except the netroots and Ned Lamont,” Mr. Stoller said in a telephone interview. “Trusting these people is a huge tactical error. Never trust anything that these insider Democrats tell you,” he said, adding, for good measure, “Bill Clinton is a liar.”

The lefty bloggers ended up putting Lamont and the Democrats in the Senate in a no-win position.

In Lamont’s case, by jumping into bed with a bunch of wacko left-wing bloggers, he undoubtedly ended up scaring a lot of moderates and Republicans in Connecticut into Joe Lieberman’s camp. Moreover, trying to run the same campaign he ran to win the primary, in the general election, would have been pointless. Everyone already knew Lamont was the anti-war candidate and, of course, the sort of appeals that get Matt Stoller, Kos, and Jane Hamsher excited aren’t going to work on moderates, Republicans, or even a good sized chunk of the Democratic Party.

Then, when it comes to the Democrats in the Senate, they were between a rock and a hard place. They were put in a position where they either had to irritate the left-wing bloggers or Joe Lieberman, the guy whom they desperately need to caucus with them and vote their way for the next six years. Could they really afford to stick it hard to Joe when they knew all along that he was going to win? No, they couldn’t.

And yeah, they did know Joe was going to win. Some of us were telling you way back in August[2] that Lieberman was in the catbird’s seat and Lamont would lose the general election just based on the nature of the race and the demographics of the state. So, it isn’t the campaign Lamont ran in the general election, he was doomed to lose from the moment Joe Lieberman decided to run in the general election forward.

But however you slice it, since the lefty bloggers would have owned the win, they certainly should own the loss and the resulting mess, too. They should have picked their battles more wisely.

  1. bear any responsibility for the whole debacle:
  2. August:

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