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A Primary Challenge to Lieberman?

Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman's image as the Democrat most supportive of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq is leading some liberals within the party  -- including fundraising powerhouse -- to chatter about fielding a primary challenge to him in 2006.

Lieberman, a moderate/conservative Democrat never particularly popular with the party's ideological left, may have pushed liberals over the edge with his Nov. 29 Wall Street Journal editorial reflecting on his recent trip to Iraq.

"The progress in Iraq is visible and practical," Lieberman wrote. "Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do."

Tom Matzzie, Washington director of's political action committee, took umbrage at those comments, saying Thursday that Lieberman was "dead wrong" about Iraq. Matzzie went on to float the idea of challenging Lieberman with a candidate from the ideological left next year. "If there was a strong, viable opposition candidate to Lieberman in the Democratic primary we would ask our members what they want to do," Matzzie said. "Lieberman's position on Iraq might handicap his ability to win the support of MoveOn members -- and other Connecticut voters." Lieberman's office declined to comment on Matzzie's remarks.

The problem for is that a quick glance around the Connecticut political landscape turns up no obvious challenger for Lieberman. The major figures in the state party -- from state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz -- are either content in their current posts or running for other offices in 2006.   

Lieberman is seemingly well-entrenched with Connecticut voters. Since ousting Sen. Lowell Weicker (R) in 1988, he won reelection with huge general election margins in 1994 (67 percent) and 2000 (63 percent) and did not face a primary challenge in either race.

Connecticut's complicated nominating process remains an X-factor in any potential primary challenge.  The state Democratic party will hold a nominating convention in May 2006.  The candidate (presumably Lieberman) receiving a simple majority of the delegate votes appears on the August 8 primary ballot as the party-endorsed candidate. Any other candidate who takes 15 percent or more of the convention vote can also run in the primary. A candidate can also petition his or her way onto the primary ballot by collecting the signatures of two percent or more of the registered Democrats in the state.

In theory, could use their fundraising and organizing capabilities to organize a rump faction of delegates behind a a liberal challenger, pushing to get him or her on the primary ballot via the convention or petition route.  But without a serious candidate all of these hypotheticals are for naught.

Are we missing a Connecticut Democratic pol (or private citizen) who could give Lieberman a real race?

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 2, 2005; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I want to point out that Lieberman DID have a liberal primary challenger, professor John Orman. But he withdrew because he didn't think he had a chance against Lieberman and his massive campaign chest.

Posted by: LM | December 12, 2005 8:09 AM | Report abuse

RE: McCain & Abramoff -- the name of the game is fame, isn't it?

Posted by: xyz | December 7, 2005 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Sens. Kyl, Cantwell, and Stabenow are all safe. Moreover, Cantwell is hardly a progressive--she supported the war for one (BIG) thing. Look at the polling data. Ohio and Missouri are races that are very close where groups like MoveOn can make a difference. They are also necessary for Democrats to win if they are to retake the Senate. Sherrod Brown is a great, solid progressive running in Ohio, and is currently tied with DeWine in the polls (as McCaskill is with Talent in MO). The RI race is trickier; depends on the outcome of the Republican primary which I don't think happens until September there. I agree that we should keep Montana on our radar screens, but the flip side is true: it won't be as clear until the Democratic primary picks Burns' opponent. But Burns is vulnerable for a host of reasons including his Abramhoff ties, Montana's trend toward Democrats lately, his history of racist and other outrageous comments, and his extremely narrow win in 2000.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 5, 2005 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Zell Miller was only appointed by then-Gov. Roy Barnes (D) to fill out the unexpired term of Sen. Paul Coverdell (R), who died in office in 2000. The term expired in 2004, and Miller did not seek election in his own right. Johnny Isakson (R) beat a weak Democrat to replace Miller. I think it may be the first time since Reconstruction that Georgia has had two Republican senators.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 5, 2005 8:37 PM | Report abuse

It may be true that less than 20% of Americans call themselves liberals (as the term has been demonized by Republicans and abandoned by Democrats). However, when polled about their positions on the issues, 60% of Americans generally agree with what would be considered the "liberal" position. To characterize as representing an extremist 15% of the population is simply not a claim justified by the facts.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 5, 2005 8:33 PM | Report abuse

What about Toby Moffet (congressman in 70s) as a challenger to Lieberman?

Posted by: possibly | December 5, 2005 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I am not a Democrat nor Republican but an Independent Conservative. Many conservatives in Connecticut are independent. We also have third parties. The Democratic party is not as strong in Ct as the Democrats would like to believe. The Republican party in Ct is a minority party. As I have said over 44% are Independent registered voters. Then there are the third parties.
Joseph Leiberman was put in as our state senator by the conservative Republicans who wanted to get rid of Lowell Weicker who was our state senator. That's why he caters to both sides. He needs the Republican votes to stay in. Many Republicans are not aware of the state's problems because they come from the affluent towns. The Democrat votes are in the large cities. That is it clear and simple.
Many problems we now have in Connecticut are coming out.
Connecticut was the center of the Industrial Revolution. It was born here. Now we have very little manufacturing base left here. Thanks to the political system in Washington DC where both parties are destroying America.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee | December 5, 2005 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Bring back Barbara Kennelly!

Posted by: Michael P | December 5, 2005 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Bring back Barbara Kennelly!

Posted by: Michael P | December 5, 2005 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Re: Senator Lieberman Senator Lieberman should be ousted as a Democrat, he no longer supports Democratic ideas.
Did you all know he was invited to the laste State Diner at the White House.
Is Lieberman kissing up to Bush for something?

Posted by: Ladylib | December 5, 2005 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Though I'd like to see ACM's vision come true; because then the Dem's would be completely unable to win elections; AR is correct, and makes a great point on McCain and the Democratic reaction to him.

Of course, it would all be moot if politicians did what they, and not pollsters and donors, thought was the right thing. Hell, people might start to trust them, then.

Posted by: Crazy Politico | December 5, 2005 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I should add that I also disagree with Sen. Lieberman on the Iraq situation,, too. However this should be separate from his support of Israel as they are not necessarily related. For instance I support a secure Israel (not that I support every move it makes--the same is true with the U.S., too!) but was against the war on Iraq going forward.

Posted by: Jason | December 5, 2005 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I also have lost many members of my family in the Holocaust and my late father was a Holocaust survivor.

Regarding Sen. Lieberman:

While he is hawkish and I disagree with his views on the Separation of Church and State, I think he votes enough with the Democratic Party not to be considered a "DINO" (especially as compared with former Senator Zell Miller of Georgia--whatever happened to him, by the way?).

I personally think Move-On should focus on protecting vulnerable Democrats (like Sen. Cantwell) and helping Democrats who are running against vulnerable Republicans like (Sen. DeWine of Ohio and Sen. Chafee of Rhode Island). I would not take for granted Sen. Stabenow's seat in Michigan as well. We do have a good chance in Missouri and Montana as well. Sen. Kyl's position on immigration may cost him Hispanic votes in Arizona, too.

Posted by: Jason | December 5, 2005 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I do find the Democratic rants about Lieberman rather amusing. They kind of remind me of Rush Limbaugh's personal vendetta against John McCain.

In truth, what qualifies anyone to decide who is a Republican or Democrat? Why do party zealots on both sides insist on blind allegiance to a pre-approved checklist? Just because Lieberman chooses to differentiate himself from others in his party over a particular issue makes him unqualified to call himself a Democrat? Give me a break! The same people pushing this line of thinking praise McCain for bucking the status quo within the GOP. Let Lieberman (and McCain) be themselves--the voters of their respective states are perfectly capable of either accepting or rejecting them.

Posted by: AR | December 5, 2005 10:13 AM | Report abuse

I think that GAINS credibility by opposing Lieberman. It's the biggest pie-in-the-sky liberal organization around. Whatever Joe's voting record, writing pro-Bush editorials in the WSJ is not something should ignore. As it basically serves as a counteracting force (albeit a much weaker one) to Rove and his right-wing machine, it needs to push centrist politicians to the left and promote progressives. That's it's raison d'etre.

Posted by: ACM | December 5, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Lieberman's future as a Democratic senator may not be an issue. When Rumsfeld resigns, Bush will appoint him as SecDef, and Blumenthal will easily beat whomever Rell picks to replace him.

Posted by: virginiadem | December 5, 2005 8:51 AM | Report abuse

More proof that the "looney left" will kill the Democratic party. MoveOn plays to the 10-15% of the base that is rabidly liberal, and out of touch with the middle of the road voters that the party needs to attract to win elections.

As long as they are allowed the run the agenda, the Dem's will remain the minority party.

Posted by: Crazy Politico | December 5, 2005 5:47 AM | Report abuse

Sandwich Repairman you are not the only one who has lost relatives in the Helocost. I have too. Furthermore there are families in these United States who have lost sons, fathers, brothers in fighting these wars. We have lost a lot of America's finest. To call racism against people who speak their mind is insane.
Leiberman does not represents Connecticut people's interests. He is a neocon and sides with Bush.
We need people who will solve the unemployment problems of Connecticut citizens by bringing jobs to Connecticut.
We need control over illegal immigration which is out of control in Ct and affects our quality of life here. We are overburdened with the highest taxes in the country.
Connecticut has over 44% independent voters. The list is growing.
We need a senator who will fight for the people of Connecticut.

Posted by: Connecticut Yankee | December 4, 2005 10:22 PM | Report abuse should realize how valuable Lieberman is in other arenas, besides Iraq. As important as Iraq is, it is not the only issue. There are plenty of anti-war votes, and attacking him on this single issue is a recipe for disaster, which would lose it's one asset -- credibility.

Posted by: preed407 | December 4, 2005 4:00 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Reverend Justoo Smooth | December 3, 2005 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Lieberman is "opportunist" personified.
The guy would step on anyone, Democrat or
Republican, to satisfy his greed and
ego. With Weiker as the candidate and
MoveOn's backing the little self-seeking
pawn of Israel can be sent home to
Connectiut for oood. It is absolutely
essential that he be given his walking

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2005 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Can't we just all agree that Leiberman is a twit, and his twittiness has nothing to do with his religion?

Posted by: Chris | December 3, 2005 2:56 PM | Report abuse

it seems like our difference is merely semantic vis a vis lieberman and israel.
but, yeah, i totally agree about the "attack on one is an attack on all of us" bit. this is exactly why lieberman gives me the willies. it's because his policies tend to attack my values. at least it feels this way. and he's *supposed* to be a democrat.
and i flatly reject the notion that his middle east policy is unclouded and objective. as you say, he's too much in cahoots with Sharon.

Posted by: jay lassiter | December 3, 2005 1:48 PM | Report abuse

It's not that Lieberman is beholden to Israel, that comment borders on anti-Semitism itself. It's that he supported the Sharon government despite its commission of a long list of disgusting atrocities, like razing Jenin where Palestinians weren't even armed, or murdering a 6 year old girl who was buying ice cream.

OK: PJ's comments were clearly anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is irrational hatred that cannot be justified, has caused many needless deaths (including those of my relatives who were shot by Nazi cronies in the Ukraine), and should not exist or be taken seriously or even listened to. The hatred of women and minorities are all linked; people who hate Jews usually also hate women, black people, GLBT people, Catholics...we have to stand together because an attack on one of us inevitably becomes an attack on the rest of us next.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 3, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

i love how these conversations about anything remotely related to Jews or jewishness always devolves into who IS or IS NOT an anti semite.
isn't it possible to be PRO-individual and still be against the zionist war machine? i swear, the USA better start fleshing out this distinction a little better, especially as the iraq war drags on and americans are increasinging relying on foreigners to distinguish between us US and the policy of our government.
same with isreal.
as for lieberman having close ties with Israel, well that does bother me. anyone who is *that* beholden to another country (any country) the more i feel this skepticism of lieberman is totally justified.
personally, i have never trusted him. i hope the dems can follow the GOP's lead and challenge these centrest canditates like liebermann in the primaries by pitting them against someone from the extreme wing of the party.

Posted by: jay lassiter | December 3, 2005 7:35 AM | Report abuse

i love how these conversations about anything remotely related to Jews or jewishness always devolves into who IS or IS NOT an anti semite.
isn't it possible to be PRO-individual and still be against the zionist war machine? i swear, the USA better start fleshing out this distinction a little better, especially as the iraq war drags on and americans are increasinging relying on foreigners to distinguish between us US and the policy of our government.
same with isreal.
as for lieberman having close ties with Israel, well that does bother me. anyone who is *that* beholden to another country (any country) the more i feel this skepticism is TOTALLY valid.

Posted by: jay lassiter | December 3, 2005 7:31 AM | Report abuse

I'm a pro-semite myself. There needs to be more pro-semitism in the world. I don't get anti-semitism; As a gentile, I've enjoyed the company of many a Jewish person, and I also find the culture very interesting and entertaining (especially orthodox dress styles). I simply do not understand where anti-semitism comes from. Ever seen a 3 year old Orthodox Jewish kid in a suit and hat walking to temple? Adorable! How can you hate that?
Recently, a friend explained to me what Zionism was, and I realized I'd pretty much been a Zionist without knowing it! Not that I'm really a Zionist, though... just a pro-semite. : )

Posted by: ErrinF | December 3, 2005 4:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree that there is no need to accuse people of stupidity, willful ignorance seems more accurate. That said, PJ's comment was quite obviously anti-semitic and should be recognized and criticized as such.

Posted by: JCarl | December 3, 2005 2:25 AM | Report abuse

I don't think you need to accuse us of stupidity. Yes, I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I'm Jewish and just spent a year working at a Jewish organization. What do you want me to do about it?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 2, 2005 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Are you all really so stupid that you don't realize that PJ was making an anti-Semitic comment, saying that Lieberman's support only comes from Jewish organizations (including the defunct JDL), which apparently control Connecticut politics as well as Al Gore?

Posted by: DavidB | December 2, 2005 10:22 PM | Report abuse

AIPAC is a pretty bad group. They're blindly pro-Israel, no matter what atrocities its government commits.

ADL is a good group that has its flaws.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 2, 2005 7:01 PM | Report abuse

PJ, What do you have against the ADL and AIPAC?

Joe never made aliyah to Israel. He is not a dual-citizen.

Posted by: DLC Dem | December 2, 2005 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Lieberman supports school vouchers. He is weak on church-state separation. He opposes affirmative action, and cast votes in favour of the death penalty and against gay rights in the early 1990s before he started having higher political aspirations. I had to research Lieberman's whole Senate record when Gore picked him for VP in 2000. I came up with a 14 page dossier full of fodder for lefties to attack Lieberman with. I'd be tickled to see a primary challenge to this DINO. How about former Democratic House members from CT like Barbara Kennelly or Sam Gejdenson? Or the one Nancy Johnson beat in 2002 when CT lost its 6th House seat? (his name is escaping me)

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 2, 2005 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I'd support Weicker over Lieberman in a heartbeat. I might even give him some money. What about Joe Courtney? Lieberman is horrible and not a real Democrat. He beat Weicker in 88 by running shameful ads painting him as being too liberal. It would make sense for Weicker to come back and give Lieberman his comeuppance.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 2, 2005 6:07 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Lieberman isn't that he's too moderate/conservative, he is fact more liberal than several other Senate democrats, including much beloved Harry Reid. The infuriating thing about Lieberman is that in his quest to be a maverick and appear centrist, he is constantly and publicly critical of other democrats. Hurting your party's collective image for your own self-aggrandizement is a good way to make a lot of your party dislike you.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 2, 2005 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Nader in the Democratic Party? Not gonna happen. If he were to challenge Lieberman in Connecticut, it'd be a three way race. Nader won't do it either way, as he has higher aspirations than being senator.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 2, 2005 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Joe Lieberman is supported by the Jewish Defense League?! I'm shocked! : )
Seriously, there's no need to go after Lieberman just because he feels the way he feels as a hawk; He's entitled to views outside the party line. However, there is plenty of room to go after him in a Democratic primary for any candidate who wants to run as a liberal rather than a moderate. Any candidate worth their salt would start tying in Lieberman with Bush. There's a lot Bush and Lieberman agree on, and it will be a negative to associate with Bush in 2006, be you Dem or Rep.
Either way, I like the term 'Joe-mentum'. We'll see if he still has any come next year.

Posted by: ErrinF | December 2, 2005 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Just for the record, I'm completely capable of correct punctuation and spelling the word "acronyms."

Posted by: GOP4LIFE | December 2, 2005 5:33 PM | Report abuse

PJ, can you shed a little light on those accromyns you just used. I'm not following. Thanks.
As for Sen. Lieberman's letter, I could not have been more impressed. I haven't been a big fan of his for some time now, but that completely changed my mind.

Posted by: GOP4LIFE | December 2, 2005 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Let's ask ourselfves first why is this DINO so big with the NeoCon culture in CT?

Then let's cover a few facts about who really supports JOE!

Here's a clue: AIPAC, and ADL, and JDL.

Need to check on Joe's background,... with Israeli dual-citizenship they say, pushing the conflict button in the Middle East is no problem for JOE.

Blue dog Dems better need to break the party line, and run this Yellow dog out.

Posted by: PJ | December 2, 2005 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Liberal Democrats should back Weicker for the Democratic nomination. He's much more reliably liberal than Lieberman, and would be unbeatable in the general election.

Posted by: Greg | December 2, 2005 4:13 PM | Report abuse

beating Leiberman in CT is no small task. He was a hugely popular and effective in the State House and again as the Atty General. Don't expect anyone with much of a chance to tackle him as he took on the Bear. The Dems are pulling out the big guns to go after the Governor's seat this go around.

Posted by: DS | December 2, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

From May 8, 2004: Ralph Nader Should Primary Lieberman

Posted by: Poppy | December 2, 2005 3:17 PM | Report abuse

They've been saying this since the attacks on Howard Dean in 2003-04

Posted by: DLC Dem | December 2, 2005 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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