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Thursday, September 21, 2006

How Lieberman lost

This is an excerpt from a GQ article online about the Lieberman-Lamont race


How the frenetic, heated, and borderline-insane race to oust Democratic Senate hawk Joe Lieberman brought new meaning to the term “partisan politics”

The final leg of the campaign starts early, in already sweltering heat. Ned Lamont, his wife, Annie, and their aide-de-camp Marc Bradley stand outside the Messiah Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, waiting for Congresswoman Maxine Waters to arrive. Outsiders tend to think of Connecticut as leafy, white, and wealthy, but its three biggest cities—Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport—are hardscrabble, black, and poor. Which means they’re rich in Democratic primary voters, and on this morning the biggest collection of those voters is at church. As dozens of parishioners stream by in their colorful Sunday best, Ned stands in his somber business suit, looking awkward and anxious. He turns to Marc and says they should go in and sit down, but Marc insists that they wait for Maxine to usher them in. “Tom was very clear about that,” he says, referring to Tom Swan, Lamont’s bulldog of a campaign manager. Eventually, Maxine arrives and leads them to their pew. She follows the sermon with her Bible open, while Ned and Annie survey the scene, looking pleasant and a little uncomfortable. Then Maxine stands up and introduces Ned—an extremely wealthy former selectman—as a man “speakin’ my language” because of his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war.

“Morning, everybody,” Ned says to the congregation at Messiah Baptist, without waiting for Messiah to answer back. “I’m Ned Lamont, and I’m running for U.S. Senate.”

Six months ago, Ned was just another Democrat outraged at Bush’s war and at the way in which the White House, as he saw it, avoided taking responsibility for the disaster it had created in Iraq by branding as unpatriotic anyone who dared criticize the direction of American policy. What ultimately persuaded him to run, though, was when Congressman Jack Murtha, a decorated Vietnam vet, called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and in the national conversation that followed, Joe Lieberman declared, “We undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.” To Ned, this was the final straw—not just a Democrat saying he still supported military involvement in Iraq, but a Democrat implying there was no place in America for the questioning of a policy that a majority of Americans now disagreed with.

It’s somewhere between forbidding and impossible for a primary challenger to defeat an incumbent senator, and in early May, Lamont trailed Lieberman by forty-six points in the polls. But progressive Democrats are as angry now as they’ve been in generations, about Iraq and Katrina and about a centrist Democratic philosophy that they believe is gutless in its unwillingness to confront a failed Bush regime. And when Ned entered the race, Joe quickly became a lightning rod for that rage.

The liberal blogosphere, spoiling for an intraparty fight, discovered, vetted, and then put all their chips down on Ned’s campaign. National sites like Daily Kos, MyDD, and Firedoglake raised money and created buzz, and Tim Tagaris, Lamont’s young Internet director (and an ex-Marine), took online strategy from virtual to hard-core. In baggy shorts and a backward baseball cap, Tagaris marshaled a thoroughly obsessed band of local bloggers into a stunningly effective combat platoon. Among other psyops, they created the now infamous float dubbed “The Kiss”—a giant papier-mâché depiction of the smooch Bush laid on Lieberman after his State of the Union address last year. “The Kiss” dogged Lieberman at public events, humiliating him, infuriating his supporters, and cracking up passersby. And a squad of video-camera-wielding locals with names like Spazeboy and Connecticut Bob disseminated footage of these guerrilla operations to the blogosphere (at no cost via YouTube), and a brand-new form of political combat was born.

posted by Steve @ 2:29:00 AM

2:29:00 AM

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