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Is this the moment that Lieberman changed American politics?

December 17, 2007

The Implications of Lieberman’s endorsement of McCain

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Earlier today Joseph Lieberman endorsed John McCain for President. Although it was obvious that Lieberman would hardly be endorsing Edwards or Obama and Lieberman campaigned with McCain in September, it was still a momentous occasion. After all, there was an outside chance that he endorse either Clinton or Giuliani, or (as he himself stated) that he would only decide until after the primaries had finished. Of course there are few clouds to this silver lining. Having Lieberman endorse McCain reduces, but by no means eliminates, the element of surprise that announcing the endorsement at the convention would produce. It also might lead to speculation about a place on the ticket, which might give opponents of such a move in both parties time to plan their attack. Finally, Lieberman’s endorsement might be McCain’s ‘Clark County’ moment, with conservative Republicans shying away from a pro-choice Democrat.

However, in reality it is impossible to see this as anything other than a sign that John McCain has re-established himself as the frontrunner again, albeit one with a 30-35% chance of winning the nomination. It is also a sign that if McCain moves toward the centre and takes the bold step of putting Lieberman on the ticket he can retain the White House for the GOP and re-make them as the ‘one nation’ party that can appeal to the North-East as well as the South and the Midwest. McCain needs to hit the campaign trail hard, keep the faith on Iraq and be prepared to pull the trigger when he Romney, Rudy and Huckabee fixed in his sights. Lieberman needs to also keep the faith with Iraq, avoid pandering on abortion and emphasise his record in fighting pornography and promoting faith in public life. As I emphasised in my last post, John McCain to win the Republican nomination should be a strong buy.

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4 comments

  1. No.

    Has-been endorses a guy trying not to become one.

    You do not answer your own “Clark County moment” argument. McCain had a good case that he actually was a true conservative. But has had to fight hard against the perception he helped build in 1999 that he was a moderate. For the last couple of months he has been tacking back to moderate as it has become clear that the only political space that exists for him is there, a space he shares with Rudy.

    This just a transparent attempt to get independents in NH. They were the key to McCain there in 1999. This time, however, if Obama finishes first or second in Iowa, he is likely to attract the independents. IMO the Lieberman endorsement, for what very little it is worth, is just a part of that little McCain/Obama NH skirmish.

    I do agree that McCain is a strong buy in the low teens for the GOP Nom. Just do not think Lieberman helps much less that McCain is the frontrunner. Romney has that role for now.


  2. Well, I agree that McCain tried to run as a Conservative, last summer which was a mistake he is only recovering from, but given that New Hampshire is one of the most liberal states (in Republican terms) McCain move back to the centre.

    If McCain can win in New Hampshire, even if he has to go to the left on economic issues to do so, he can destroy Rudy’s (and Romeny’s) candidacy, leaving only Thompson and Huckabee standing. With respect to both of those candidates they are no match for him. McCain does need to keep emphasising that, the Lieberman endorsement notwithstanding, he is solidly pro-life.

    I was also playing ‘devils advocate’ on the CC analogy, and endorsement from a respected Senator is not the same as getting a (probably hysterical) letter from someone on the other side of the world.


  3. I guess my main point is that Lieberman is unlikely to help in NH. Obama and Ron Paul will, between the two of them, grab well over 50% of the independents McCain relied upon in 1999. Lieberman does not really help with registered NH Republicans.

    The Lieberman/McCain liability with true conservatives is not on abortion. It’s campaign finance reform, taxes, regulation, immigration. Lieberman hurts on all of those fronts. Lieberman only helps in the places people are already most favorable to McCain and where there is no need for further emphasis: Iraq and bipartisanship.


  4. Yes, but if you add up social conservatives, moderates and hawks you account for 80% of the GOP. Obviously people who are conservative on abortion will be conservative in other areas but in NH most of the Republicans are moderate enough to be pretty close to Lieberman or pro-war enough to ignore everything else.

    In South Carolina, Virigina or even Florida it might be another story but McCain desperately needs the momentum from a win in NH so much that he can afford to ruffle the feathers of a few right-wingers down the line.



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