Lieberman’s ‘Open Options’

LIEBERMAN’S ‘OPEN OPTIONS’….This week, a Quinnipiac poll showed Sen. Joe Lieberman leading his Democratic primary rival, Ned Lamont, but not by the margin he’d like. The three-term incumbent, facing a political novice, was ahead 55% to 40%.

Given the circumstances, Lieberman should probably do everything he can to remind Democratic voters that, despite breaking ranks on several key issues, he loves the party, shares its commitments, and is proud to run under its banner. Instead, he continues to do the opposite.

In the wake of a statewide poll that shows U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman winning re-election easily if he runs as an independent, the three-term Democratic incumbent refused Friday to rule out the possibility.

“I’m not going to close out any option,” Lieberman said during a campaign stop at Carmine’s Italian Grill.

As a practical matter, I can appreciate Lieberman’s dilemma. If he loses in the primary, Lieberman can very likely run a very competitive, if not successful, campaign as an independent. Indeed, the Quinnipiac poll shows him winning a three-way race fairly easily.

But if, in the short term, Lieberman hopes to win over primary voters, talking openly about possibly abandoning his party strikes me as a spectacularly bad strategy. He is, in effect, telling Democratic voters, “I want to be the Democratic nominee, but my allegiance will disappear if you choose someone else.” (For the record, Lamont has said he’ll back Lieberman if the incumbent wins the primary.)

Primary voters tend to be the most loyal, active members of both parties. As a rule, they have made a sincere commitment to the party, and more often than not, like candidates who feel the same way. If many Connecticut Democrats are concerned that Lieberman’s values and priorities have strayed too far from the party’s mainstream, how does Lieberman suppose these people will react to word that he’s prepared to give up on the party altogether?