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Friday, April 08, 2005

CT-Sen: Joe Lieberman, Vulnerable?

Posted by DavidNYC

First and foremost, this is not a post on the wisdom or merits of challenging Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary next year. This is, however, a quick look at whether Lieberman may or may not be vulnerable to such a challenge. When Markos posted the results of the most recent Quinnipiac poll over at DailyKos, one thing jumped out at me:

Lieberman job approval among CT Democrats:
Approve: 66
Disapprove: 23
Don't Know: 11

That looks pretty strong, no? A 66-23 approval rating doesn't exactly suggest vulnerability to a primary challenge. But check out these numbers from what I feel is a very closely analogous situation:

Specter job approval among PA Republicans:
Approve: 61
Disapprove: 20
Don't Know: 20

This poll was taken in February of 2003, a little over a year before the PA Senate primary in 2004 - in other words, roughly in the same timeframe as the Lieberman Q-Poll (the CT primary should take place in August of 2006, if I'm not mistaken). Again, those numbers certainly didn't make Arlen Specter look at-risk.

But he was seen as being out-of-step with his party faithful (indeed, like Joe, Arlen's approval among Dems was actually slightly higher than among GOPers). And he was indeed challenged vigorously. You could describe it as a "challenge from the right," but I think it's also valid to say that Pat Toomey represented those who wanted to challenge Specter for his perceived disloyalty to the GOP - in other words, for reasons not dissimilar to those many of us put forth for unseating Joe.

And remember what happened:

PA GOP Senate Primary Results
Specter: 51
Toomey: 49

Phew! That was close! Specter won by just 17,000 votes out of over a million cast - when not long before the election, he had a 3-to-1 approval rating among his own party members. Pretty remarkable that Toomey came so incredibly close to unseating an incumbent senator in a primary - but perhaps not all that surprising.

So what does this say to me? Two things: 1) Polls such as these don't accurately reflect the views of likely primary voters; and 2) a 3-to-1 approval rating does not mean you are invulnerable to a challenge. Joe Lieberman should probably not be sleeping too soundly.

(Cross-posted to DailyKos.)

Posted at 03:23 PM in Connecticut | Technorati


This is a very good point, David, and the kind of thing I was looking for when I questioned Bob's assumption in the other thread.

Maybe the next step is to look at where Toomey's support came from. We all know who is leading the charge against Lieberman at the moment; what elements of the party would we need to add to that groundswell to increase the chances of success? For example, both Santorum and Bush (half-heartedly at first, more explicitly later) came out for Specter, and surely we can expect Democratic leadership (and Sen. Dodd, I assume?) to back Lieberman.

So who are the forces that backed Toomey, and what are the Democratic equivalents of those forces? Or was it 100% about the conservative Republican grassroots (I don't think it was)?

Posted by: Steve M [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2005 03:45 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment