We always thought there was something just a little self-absorbed about Joe Lieberman's plan to run as an independent if he loses to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary. It would be one thing if Lieberman represented views that otherwise wouldn't be heard in Washington or aren't part of the public debate. A tilting-at-windmills, bucking-the-popular-will campaign is a fine way for someone outside the mainstream to draw attention to his cause. But if Lieberman doesn't win his primary, it will be because Democrats in Connecticut have concluded that he is too closely aligned with the political views that already dominate all three branches of the federal government. If he stays in the race at that point, it's all about Joe.
And now he's got the party to prove it. As the Associated Press reports, Lieberman filed paperwork Monday that he'll need if he loses to Lamont in the primary and decides to seek reelection as an independent. Only it seems that Lieberman wouldn't run as an independent, exactly. He'd run as the standard-bearer for a new party called "Connecticut for Lieberman."
As we said, it's all about Joe.
Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz said there's a reason for Lieberman to run at the top of his own personal party rather than as a true independent: It will get him a higher spot in the list of candidates on the November ballot. Lieberman will get the fifth spot on the ballot as the candidate for Connecticut for Lieberman, while he'd fall to eighth or ninth place on the ballot as an independent, the AP says.
At this point, of course, this is all a little hypothetical, except for what it says about Lieberman. (Sen. Patrick Leahy said last week that Lieberman's plan to run as an independent has and "should" hurt him with Democrats, and that Lieberman has a "special responsibility" to the party as its former vice presidential candidate.) Lieberman is still ahead in public polling, and if he wins the primary in August, Connecticut for Lieberman will presumably disappear. Will Lieberman win the primary? While public polling shows him with a significant lead, a Congressional Quarterly analyst says he has heard "rumors" of private polls with "good likely voter screens" that show the race as "extremely tight." It certainly stands to reason. If Lieberman were confident that he was cruising to a primary victory, he wouldn't be talking the talk and walking the walk of his Joe Party candidacy in the first place.
Update: It's all about Joe even when it's not.
Lieberman's new TV ad suggests that the Lamont campaign is short on ideas and long on anti-Lieberman sentiment. Its evidence: a bumper sticker that says "No More Joe." The problem? As Factcheck.org reports, the Lamont campaign hasn't distributed any such bumper sticker, nor does it own the inactive Web site -- nomorejoe.com -- shown on the sticker in Lieberman's ad. "Overall, the Lieberman campaign is well within its rights to argue that Lamont's campaign lacks a positive message and is simply 'anti-Lieberman,'" Factcheck says. "But creating false campaign material and passing it off as authentic? That seems at odds with the ad's praise of Lieberman's 'principles.'"