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Same Old Joe Lieberman?


Jamie, below, expresses his displeasure over a new poll finding that Connecticut voters, if they had to do it over again, would vote for Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman by a margin of 51-37. I don't find Jamie's argument convincing. Let me go through it point-by-point.

1. Jamie writes that the poll "was commissioned by the Daily Kos (which the Times doesn't bother to mention, instead linking to a blog called "My Left Nutmeg,") and conducted by an obscure outfit called "Research 2000." That should tell you something, given Kos's history with Lieberman."

Well, no, it doesn't tell you anything. Daily Kos paid for the poll because they were interested in the results. But Research 2000 is not obscure, it is a well-respected non-partisan polling firm with a solid record of forecasting this primary.

2.  Jamie argues, "even the poll's own findings show it to be inaccurate. 48% of poll respondents said they voted for Lieberman in 2006 and 43% said they voted for Lamont. Lieberman actually won the 2006 election, however, 50% to 40%. So the poll's own purported sample is biased in favor of Lamont."

First of all, 48-43 is extremely close to 50-40 -- within the statistical margin of error. Second, it's a known phenomenon that people often misremember who they voted for in a previous election. They tend to recall voting for the winner, or the candidate they retrospectively wished they voted for. In the early years of the George W. Bush presidency, when he was popular, majorities of voters reported having chosen him over Al Gore. Polls famously showed huged majorities of those who voted in 1960 claiming to have supported Kennedy, who actually won a razor-tight victory. So, to the extent that the number claiming to have voted for Lamont has risen above the actual figure, it's more evidence that voters do indeed have buyers' remorse.

3. Jamie continues, "Statistical errors aside, the Times editorial board obviously has a dog in this fight, as they endorsed Lamont in the Democratic primary."

True (the part about the Times, not the alleged statistical errors), but of course Jamie has a dog in this fight as well.

4. Jamie concludes, "But Lieberman ran -- very obviously -- as a pro-war candidate in 2006. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has actually paid attention these last few years, never mind the voters of Connecticut, that Lieberman winded up endorsing the presidential candidacy of John McCain -- who supports a continued presence in Iraq -- over either of the two Democrats, who claim the war is a failure and support withdrawal. The antiwar left can complain about Lieberman all they want, but they lost fair and square. To say that Lieberman somehow tricked the voters of Connecticut two years ago is just desperate."

Yes, Lieberman ran as a pro-war candidate. He also ran as a loyal Democrat. Nobody is saying that every single claim Lieberman made in 2006 was wrong. They're only saying that the claims he made about his loyalty to the Democratic Party were wrong. Lieberman did not specifically promise not to endorse the GOP presidential nominee, or speculate that the Democratic nominee -- whose endorsement Lieberman actively solicited in the primary -- is a Marxist. I think it's pretty clear that Lieberman today is a much different, and more pro-Republican, candidate than he was in 2006. Indeed, Lieberman himself recently said, in the course of lavishing praise on Rush Limbaugh:

to show you how much things have changed for me, one of my greatest missions this year is to convince Rush to support the Republican candidate for President!

So I don't think even Lieberman himself is claiming that nothing has changed. In any case, the proof is in the pudding. A year and a half ago, Connecticut voters preferred Lieberman over Lamont by a ten point margin. Today they prefer Lamont bya  fourteen point margin. Either the Connecticut electorate has shifted radically to the left, or Lieberman has in fact acted much differently than those voters were led to believe.

--Jonathan Chait