This is a dispatch from the campaign trail cross-posted from the Lamont campaign's official blog. Get involved and help us make history here in Connecticut - go here to see how you can help.
For a guy who has screwed up so many huge things (say, for instance the Iraq War), I must say: Joe Lieberman is damn good at minute pettiness. I guess it's easy to be good at that if you have no principles or basic sense of manners, and are willing to deploy your surrogates to disrupt a major veterans event by trying to physically throw Ned Lamont out of the parade today in Hartford. It was the Return of the Lieberthugz, Part II.
Yup, you read that right: at the beginning of today's Veterans Day parade in downtown Hartford, Joe smiled and shook Ned's hand, and then quickly sent his folks out to try physically bar Ned from marching with Congressman John Larson and other Democrats who invited him to march. It was one of those moments where all you could think of saying was wow, stay classy Joe Lieberman.
Ned decided not to listen, and jogged around the Lieberman folks while we distracted them, and caught back up to the Democrats. When the Lieberman people again tried to physically remove Ned from the parade, Larson backed them off once and for all telling them simply: "Ned's with us." That could be the bumper sticker slogan of this campaign, as it perfectly sums up how in more and more people's minds, Ned represents standing up for regular people, and Joe represents standing up for the status quo.
I'll be frank: I was a bit nervous about the parade from the get-go because Joe has joined with Vice President Cheney to try to liken Ned and the majority of Connecticut who want change in Iraq to Osama bin Laden fans. But my concerns were allayed as we walked through Hartford - veterans kept coming up to Ned thanking him for having the guts to run in this race, and the guts to stand up and say what needs to be said about the war in Iraq.
Joe was, per the norm, as polished as a patent leather shoe, but as dirty as the sole of that same shoe had it been trudged through a manure pile. He marched waving and smiling - but not to the crowd, because there were very few people cheering for him. But he knows how to create a picture for the cameras, so he went ahead and waved and thumbs-upped the group of his own staffers and security guards walking through the crowd along the sidewalks.
But while Joe is smart about the tight shot, it was the wide angle pictures that I snapped here that told his story. While Ned marched with Democrats like Larson and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Joe marched with embattled Republican Congresswoman Nancy Johnson and conservative radio host Brad Davis.
Remember when Joe told reporters he wasn't going to say whether he thought it would be good for Democrats to take back the House? This picture tells you why he said this - because he's actively campaigning for Johnson to defeat Chris Murphy in what is shaping up to be one of the most important House races in the country.
What's most interesting to me about this campaign in terms of the race's mechanics is how unflappable Ned is. I've worked with a lot of different candidates, and all of them have their good traits and bad ones. But most often, non-career politicians aren't very even-keeled at this point in the race.
Not so for Ned. The guy is really passionate about what we're doing and how important this race is in trying to end the war in Iraq - but he never gets shaken by Lieberman's pettiness. My bet is that's really a commentary on Ned's focus - a focus that likely comes from his business experience where he's competed and won against the major cable conglomerates in one of the toughest industries out there. It must also be a commentary on Ned's smarts - though I've never asked him, I bet that Ned knows that everytime the career politician he's running against pulls one of these stunts, that career politician is once again sending a strong signal of desperation.
Today was a great example of this. When they tried to bully Ned, he didn't get upset - he just figured out a way to get around them so that he could meet with as many veterans as possible to talk with them about the issues. It was a successful event because it's obvious, to echo Larson, more and more voters know "Ned's with us" and Joe is not.