In what is becoming the $64,000 question in Connecticut, many of the state's political insiders are wondering how Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) can win reelection in 2012.
Even after losing the Democratic primary in 2006, Lieberman was able to secure reelection by running as an independent. (He caucuses with Democrats in the Senate today.) Critical to his victory, however, was the help of Alan Schlesinger, an uninspiring GOP candidate who roused little in the way of conservative excitement. Lieberman was also aided by the fact that he was still popular among some Democrats at the time.
Lieberman might lack both ingredients in 2012.
For starters, the GOP may be looking to target the seat. "The Republican candidate this time will be supported and stronger. And any Republican who gets over 25 percent of the vote, there's no way Lieberman can win as an Independent," Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy tells Roll Call.
Topping that potential list are recently unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, failed Senate candidate Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons, who lost a Senate primary to McMahon earlier this year.
Compounding Lieberman's troubles is the fact that Democrats don't appear likely to concede the seat to the Connecticut senator who has been known to vote against the Democratic agenda more than his blue state's constituency might prefer. Lieberman endorsed John McCain for president in 2008 and was a notorious obstruction during the Democrats' health care overhaul effort, an act that 81 percent of Democrats said should result in the stripping of his committee post.
"He has a problem. He is representing a blue state in the U.S. Senate as an Independent. He is neither fish nor fowl, if you will," Republican Rob Simmons told Roll Call in an interview.
Roll Call breaks down potential Democratic plans for the seat:
High on the list of Democrats to watch are Rep. Christopher Murphy and Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator and an investment banker who helped top-of-the-ticket Connecticut Democrats this cycle. Murphy has been viewed as preparing for a Senate bid since he was first elected to the House in 2006, when he knocked off Rep. Nancy Johnson (R).
"Certainly, any of our Congressional candidates have the capability of stepping up," Connecticut Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said. "But two years is a long way off, and a lot can happen. We don't even know if [Lieberman] is running. We don't know if he's seeking the Democratic nomination."
There is no easy route for Lieberman. He must either choose to mount a difficult and expensive primary campaign to return to the Democratic party, a tough prospect considering the lasting soreness on the left evident in his low approval ratings in Connecticut, or he continues his course and hopes to draw enough votes against a field potentially consisting of strong Democratic and Republican candidates.