Lots of stuff different happening today in Connecticut politics, but there's one unifying theme: the Lieberman campaign is in meltdown mode. What's happening is pretty exciting/shocking/ridiculous, and it shows how quickly evolution can happen in the political arena.
Late yesterday after Ned's great health care event in Connecticut, the Lieberman campaign had one of the more laughable spasms of sheer desperation I've seen in a long time. They actually tried to equate Ned missing 6 votes on a part-time town council with Joe missing almost every vote on Medicare bill, and half of all votes on the Iraq War. That is, they tried to equate Ned's 6 missed votes while he was running his business full-time to Joe, a full-time U.S. Senator, putting fundraisers for himself over votes on the most important health care program in America and on the most critical national security issue in a generation.
Early this morning today, Lieberman announced he would be holding a conference call with reporters "to preview his critique of the Bush Administration's inadequate plan for fighting global warming and to describe the implications for Connecticut." The Lamont campaign found that quite interesting, considering that, just one year ago, Lieberman ignored the requests of his own constituents and delivered President Bush the only Democratic vote from the Northeast for the White House's Energy Bill - a bill that will significantly intensify global warming. Not surprisingly, Lieberman was handsomely rewarded by the energy industry, which flooded his reelection campaign with PAC money. See the details of Lieberman's behavior on energy here.
Now, the rumor is that Lieberman panicked and changed the entire topic of his conference call, instead making it about health care and jobs. Ned is having an event today to discuss his own ironclad refusal to support privatizing both Medicare and Social Security, and, by contrast, Lieberman's willingness to champion both privatization concepts at the urging of his health and financial industry donors. My guess is Lieberman will regurgitate his laughable line that the only reason he worked to stop health care reform in the 1990s was because he was worried about hurting small business with employer mandates. Yet, as major newspapers noted at the time, Lieberman's weapon of choice in stopping health care reform back then was a piece of legislation he authored that proposed to severely raise taxes on small business health benefits. I'm not quite sure how Lieberman is going to claim that his legislative reaction to supposedly being worried about small businesses being able to afford health benefits was to author a bill to raise taxes on small business health benefits - but then, Lieberman's backflipping and double-twisting has been of such Olympic gold-medal quality of late, nothing would suprise me.
What's likely intensifying Lieberman's increasingly erratic and panicked behavior is a new poll out today that shows that Ned has closed the race to a 2 point gap, and not only has a commanding lead among Democrats, but also holds a lead among independents. He also can't be happy that President Bush is coming to Connecticut Monday. That's a major double whammy for Joe - it will put Bush on the front pages of papers in the state, while also raising cash for GOP Senate nominee Alan Schlesinger.
And on top of all of this, today GQ released its expose on Lieberman, in which writer Ken Cain dropped a hammer on his face. Obviously, Joe can't be happy that the New York Times busted his top spokesman Dan Gerstein for unabashedly lying about the piece. Check it out - they didn't bust him for sort of lying, or slightly lying, or partially lying - they nailed him for full-on, flat-out lying (though, apparently in New York Times-ese lying is called being "not clear").
I've worked on challenger races before, and what we're seeing here is the classic behavior of an incumbent who realizes his career getting away with tricking voters and siding with Big Money interests is about to end, no matter how many lies that are thrown out there, no matter how many "everything is going great in Iraq" speeches he gives, no matter how many flips, flops or waffles he serves up and gets nailed for.
Over the last many months, we've seen the evolution right before our eyes. It's like one of those natural history museum charts of the ape going to the neanderthal going to the man - only whenever its about a sitting U.S. Senator, it always goes in reverse. We started out with the pious, supposedly principled Joementum - that polite creature of the Washington Beltway who used his much-fawned-over intelligence to spit venom at those who question the war. Then we got the sore loserish Joenertia - the oaf who, days after pledging his loyalty to the Democratic Party, decided to leave the party and then liken his opponents and those who voted against him to terrorist sympathizers. And now, finally, we've hit this last step where he and those around him have lost all control of his most basic faculties. It's what we can all call Joemeltdown.
(DISCLOSURE: I have long been a volunteer supporter of Ned Lamont's candidacy and written extensively about the race. As of Labor Day, I am officially working with the Lamont for Senate campaign on research. The writing on this blog is my own, and not the official work I do for the Lamont campaign.)