Thanks to someone at WSJ online for putting up a link to this post at the bottom of an article on “McCain’s Surge.”
I don’t even have to go visit DailyKos to have an idea of just how Joe Lieberman’s endorsement of John McCain for President must be received. Even after losing the Democratic nomination and then winning reelection to the Senate as an independent, Lieberman had stressed that he would back a Democrat for President in 2008.
Lieberman gave as his reason for endorsing McCain his Senate colleague’s support for the occupation of Iraq. However, as Steven Taylor notes at PoliBlog, there is a lot more to it than that.
But there is still more. The two have cooperated on climate-change initiatives in the Senate since at least as far back as 2003. So they share some domestic and non-security policy goals as well as being perhaps the most stridently imperialist and militarist in their respective parties (assuming we can still call Lieberman a Democrat, based on the party he caucuses with, if nothing else).
But the bigger question is whether this endorsement can help McCain. New Hampshire, where McCain nearly shook up the GOP race with his win in 2000, allows independents to vote in either party’s primary. The 2008 political dynamic seems one highly unfavorable to independents voting in the Republican primary. Independents this year would seem to be much more likely to vote in the Democratic primary, yet with polls showing Hillary Clinton still ahead there almost 2:1, there seems little evidence of that thus far.1
Given the current state of the GOP field, I don’t rule out the nomination of McCain, though I still think it is unlikely (Steven’s post, linked above, gives the litany of reasons why, even if only by default, it could happen; see also the recent “Lexington” column in The Economist).
Another aspect that is worth noting in this endorsement is Lieberman’s own future. Whatever Lieberman may have said about 2008 previously, he was re-elected in 2006 with an electoral coalition that was much more Republican than it was Democratic. If he has any hope of continuing a career in the Senate after this term (and my guess, actually, is that he does not), it won’t be as a Democrat. He has to appeal to the constituency he actually represents. And that is independents and (moderate) Republicans. And McCain remains, other than Ron Paul, the most “independent” of the GOP nomination-seekers. No matter how much McCain may be within the mainstream of his party on most issues (something that, by the way, can also be said about Lieberman and Democrats), John McCain has staked out so many visible positions in recent years against his party’s core dogmas (as, again, has Lieberman in his) that he still has the reputation for independence that is presumably crucial for any Republican to win the general election.
In the event McCain gets the nomination, could Lieberman be fishing for the running-mate slot, or some position in a potential McCain administration? It has been a long time since someone not from the presidential nominee’s party obtained the vice-presidential nomination, though John Kerry reportedly offered his number two slot to McCain in 2004 (and that flirtation may even have been at McCain’s initiative). I will not say that I consider a McCain-Lieberman ticket likely. But it might be the Republicans’ best hope. More to the point, McCain and Lieberman do appear to need each other politically at this moment in their political careers.
Full disclosure here: I hopped on the McCain bandwagon in 2000 and have no regrets about it in the context of that campaign. He remains one of my two favorite Republicans in the field, along with Ron Paul, though that is not saying much. I could never, in today’s context, support an ardent and passionate imperialist (McCain) or an ardent and passionate privatizer even if he is an outspoken anti-imperialist (Paul). Not after the orgy of war, occupation, and sellouts to big business of the Bush years. But they remain intriguing candidates that I hope to see do better than their polling numbers. Moreover, a 2008 general-election campaign in which McCain were to be the GOP nominee, Paul were to run as an independent or Libertarian, and the Green Party were to nominate Cynthia McKinney, while the Christianists, upset over the GOP choosing someone who once called their own leadership “agents of intolerance,” ran their own candidate, would be a race for the ages! At the very least, it would increase receptiveness to arguments for electoral reform!
- I say this assuming that independents would be more likely to favor someone other than Clinton–perhaps Barack Obama. And I also say this without knowing whether polls a few weeks ahead of the 2000 NH primary detected the surge of independents for McCain. Maybe there is a surge still to come, or not being detected. And if Obama did “win” in Iowa, even on the order of 30-29, maybe it would set up the independents participating in the Democratic primary that I would expect. Nonetheless, an Obama (or other Democrat) surge so late seems somewhat remote to me, and it needs to remain remote for McCain to have much of a chance. [↩]