|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
Froma Harrop / Syndicated columnist
Bush's pet Democrat is in trouble
GREENWICH, Conn. — Anger at President Bush could bring down a number of congressional Republicans, and one Democrat might join them. He is Joseph Lieberman, senator from Connecticut. Many voters here want nothing more than to sink "Bush's favorite Democrat." They are mad at Joe Lieberman over his uncritical support of the Iraq war and 18 other things, including his bottomless need for right-wing approval.
So Lieberman will not have a clear sail into November, easily smiting a little-known Republican. First he'll have to duke it out in a tough Democratic primary on Aug. 8. His challenger is businessman Ned Lamont, who, if elected, would not be Bush's favorite anything.
There is delectable irony in the candidacy of Edward "Ned" Lamont. Polished, trim and rich, Lamont lives and works in Greenwich, home of the Bush dynasty. Lamont would make a more convincing descendant of the late Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush than W himself. But he doesn't need anyone else's fancy ancestors. He has his own, namely great-grandfather Thomas Lamont, who headed the House of Morgan.
Ned Lamont built a telecommunications company, and his net worth sits somewhere between $90 million and $300 million. Suffice it to say Lamont is no stranger to capitalism, which is a plus for a liberal. That worldly grasp of how things work colors his views with a pragmatism that should reassure Connecticut's substantial well-heeled electorate.
And the liberal ground troops also seem fine with it. Lamont has become a folk hero at MoveOn.org and various lefty blogs. MoveOn and Democracy for America, run by Howard Dean's brother Jim, now hold rallies for him. And he already has an endorsement from the National Organization for Women.
Why is Lamont running against Lieberman? The first straw, he says, was watching Lieberman defend the president on "Meet the Press" for sticking his nose into the Terri Schiavo case. "That to me was just so wrong." But the last straw broke when Lieberman declared that Rep. John Murtha's call for a gradual troop withdrawal from Iraq undermined the president's credibility at everyone's peril. "It was at that point that I started making some calls," Lamont says.
Weirdly, Lieberman often takes positions that draw applause from Bible Belt conservatives but seem culturally out of tune with the mainstream back home, including traditional Republicans. Northeast Republicans tend to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal. They believe in balanced budgets, but don't have a problem with morning-after pills or with France.
"I was never a Republican," Lamont said, "but I have a family of genealogical Republicans — my dad, his dad, his dad; my mother, her mother, her mother. They were internationalist Republicans, who would be horrified by the current Bush administration."
Lieberman's vulnerability became obvious at the state Democratic nominating convention — where Lamont came out from nowhere to capture a third of the votes. Lamont's mission now is to build name recognition. (During the convention, a Hartford Courant cartoon showed a campaign button with the words, "Ned who?")
Lieberman, meanwhile, has accused Lamont of trying to buy the election. He's running a television ad that begins: "Meet Ned Lamont. He's a Greenwich millionaire."
Lamont has so far injected a million of his own dollars into his campaign, bringing the total to just under $2 million. Lieberman has raised nearly $7 million.
The big question is whether Lamont will open the spigots of his personal wealth. Lamont says he's willing to agree on a cap on campaign spending, "but at the end of the day, if I have to defend myself from some of these ads, I'll defend myself."
The second big question is: What will Lieberman do if he loses to Lamont? Some think he will run as an independent, as which he could pick up conservatives who wouldn't be voting in the Democratic primary. Whatever, Connecticut voters are in a raw mood, and that does not bode well for the senator many call "Bush's boy."
Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
2006, The Providence Journal Co.