Say it ain't so, Joe

What happens when the metaphorical wife of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid threatens to leave the Democratic Party?

Published July 5, 2006 2:01PM (EDT)

Early last month, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told Salon that he thought of Sen. Joe Lieberman the way he thought of his wife. "You know, I love Joe Lieberman," Reid told War Room's Tim Grieve. "But, you know, my wife and I have been together for a long, long time, but she doesn't think I'm perfect, and I don't think she's perfect."

So the question is raised. What would Harry Reid do if his wife left the Democratic Party?

On Monday, of course, Lieberman announced that he would be prepared to jump ship from the Democratic Party if he loses the Aug. 8 primary against antiwar candidate Ned Lamont. "I want the opportunity to put my case before all the people of Connecticut in November," Lieberman said. He then added, somewhat incongruously, that he would remain a "proud Democrat" even if he left the party.

In response, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton announced that she would dump Joe if he leaves the party. "We must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters," she said. Another prominent Democrat, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, said much the same thing in an appearance last month on NBC's "Meet The Press": "I will support the Democratic nominee, whoever that is."

Reid, meanwhile, has remained mum, as his marital spat has broken into a public debate. Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says any speculation right now about the party endorsing a non-Democrat would "undermine" Lieberman's candidacy.

Meanwhile, Democratic activists in Connecticut continued to focus their political fury on one of their own, pushing the party ever closer to a repeat of the self-immolating 1968 nominating convention in Chicago. As Lieberman campaigned at a Fourth of July parade in Willimantic, he was dogged by chants of "traitor" and "shame on you."

One can only imagine all the celebratory BlackBerry messages bouncing back and forth between Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman.

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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