CT-Sen: Not a Chance
No way, that is, that the actual election results will look ANYTHING like what the polls are currently saying.
This race has been a muddled, confusing, surprising mess from the beginning, with nothing in it conforming to expectations. The current polls show Lamont trailing by double-digits--a fact that has caused everything from handwringing to outright obituaries all over the liberal blogophere.
NOTHING about the race as it's currently polling makes any sense--and it won't pan out that way. Ned Lamont is going to win this election, and here are the reasons why:
1. The Bush Voters. A full 44% of Connecticut voters voted for George W. Bush in 2004. That's forty-four percent. Connecticut is a Liberal State all right--but it ain't THAT liberal.
And yet every single poll shows the actual Republican Senate candidate polling at only 5-7 percentage points in the race. That is simply NOT going to happen. No way, no how. You would have to convince me that a full 85% of Bush voters will cross over to vote for a Connecticut for Lieberman DEMOCRAT on this year's ballot. Color me highly skeptical.
Lieberman may be a Bush toadie on the Occupation of Iraq, he may have his issues with women's rights, and he may be a corrupt bastard, but he votes with Democrats over 70% of the time. Ashamed as we are to admit it today, he was our Vice-Presidential Candidate in 2000--running alongside AL GORE.
Republicans know this. Social conservatives will NOT vote for Joe Lieberman. Fiscal conservatives will NOT vote for Joe Lieberman, who fits the mold of an old-time "tax and spend" Democrat. Not even to prevent Ned Lamont from getting elected.
Meanwhile, Schlesinger performed VERY well at the recent debate (not factored into the polls), and will tap into a lot of disaffected conservative sentiment in the state.
2. The embarrassed respondent factor. "Centrist" hack Mickey Kaus has actually discussed this at some length in regard to the difference between robo-polling and actual human-to-human polling. I'll take it a step further: when a pollster asks a respondent whom they are going to vote for, the respondent often tries to say the "respectable" thing--either because of the presence of the pollster, or perhaps because of family members or friends listening to the responses.
There has been a lot of pressure on Republican voters to vote for Lieberman; some Dem households are quite divided. Saying that you'll vote for Lieberman is "respectable" in CT households of both political stripes. But that doesn't mean that people will actually vote that way when they step into the booth--especially Republicans. While Republicans may say they will vote for Lieberman on the phone, it will be too much for many of them to stomach when they're in the quiet privacy of a voting booth.
3. Motivated voters. Lieberman's voters are not terribly motivated. There are really two kinds of Lieberman voters: a) Dems who are distrustful of change and are simply comfortable with the status quo; and b) Republicans who will vote against their own ideology to keep Lamont out of power. Neither of these are the kind of voters that you can count on making it to the polls. For these folks, if something else comes up on their schedule, voting will take second fiddle.
Ned Lamont's voters, on the other hand, are highly motivated and eager for a change. They'll make it to the voting booth (or vote absentee) come hell or high water.
4. The Ground Game. This has been discussed at length, and requires no great explanation from me. Psifighter37 mentioned this factor most recently and famously. Markos himself says that the ground game alone will make up for about 5 polling points.
Me, I think it will be bigger than that. Lieberman has literally NO ground game. Nothing. He's paying unmotivated high school kids--that's about it. Meanwhile, Ned Lamont has the unions, the motivated voters, the grassroots, AND the Dem Party machinery behind him. That's a big, big difference--especially in a state as relatively small at Connecticut.
5. The Ballot. The actual ballot does not favor Lieberman. Not at all. For several reasons.
A) Lieberman's name comes at the bottom of the ballot--the worst possible position.
B) Alan Schlesinger's name comes at the TOP of the ballot.
C) GOP voters will see the big fat (R) right next to Schlesinger's name and be reminded that they have a populist, outsider GOP candidate to vote for.
D) Dem voters will see the (D) next to Lamont's name, and the (CfL) next to Lieberman's name--and be reminded of just who the Democratic candidate in this race really is.
The ballot alone will take a few points off of Lieberman's final tally.
6. The Fundraising Scandals. Two new scandals over Joe's campaign funds have come out just in the past few days. First off, there's the White House slush fund that has been keeping Joe afloat financially--a story with legs that will only remind Dem voters of Lieberman's strong ties to Bush. Second, Tim Tagaris informed us all yesterday about Joe's petty cash slush fund problem. It should be amusing to see how he responds to questions concerning his multiple, flat-out law-breaking on campaign finance.
Most importantly, these two stories bite into one of Lieberman's strongest campaign arguments: that he's a man of "integrity." It's hard to look senatorial and above-the-fray when you're caught red-handed violating the law and taking money from the opposition.
7. The Endorsements. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy have a LOT of pull in New England. Both of them will be coming out strong for Lamont in the coming weeks.
Now, some say that the major Dems came out for Lieberman, and it didn't have an effect. The counters to this argument are easy: 1) it was a primary, where tuned-in voters uneasily swayed by big names were doing the voting; 2) who's to say they didn't? If Boxer and Clinton hadn't come out for Lieberman, his losses may well have been much more devastating.
8. The Bush Factor. A new Newsweek poll shows that a MAJORITY of Americans want to see Bush IMPEACHED. That's right. Impeached. Remember that Al Gore found it necessary to run away from Bill Clinton because of his "taint", though Clinton's popularity remained high throughout the Republican witch-hunt.
And yet we're expected to believe that the man to whom Bush gave the Kiss of Death is going to receive the votes of the same Democrats who want to see Bush impeached? Color me severely skeptical about this.
9. The Wave. There is a Democratic wave afoot this election. No doubt about it. We're seeing it all over the country, as races thought to be unwinnable by Democrats have become competitive.
And yet, the only state appearing to buck this trend in the polls is Connecticut. It makes absolutely no sense to any astute political observer.
As for me, I think the "Wave" will override whatever the polls are saying two weeks before the election. Castles don't stay in the air forever.
To sum it up, All of these factors combined serve to erase in my mind even a double-digit Lieberman lead in the polls when the voters actually vote on election day.
The Bush voters will come home to the GOP to tune of at least 4 or 5 percentage points.
There are at least 1 or 2 percentage points worth of "embarrassed respondents" out there.
Lamont's motivated voters will swamp Lieberman's unmotivated cadre of weak Dems and disaffected Republicans to the tune of at least 3 percentage points.
Lamont's ground game will make up at least another couple of points.
The structure of the ballot itself will give Lamont at least another couple of points.
Joe's fundraising scandals may or may not have an impact on his image of respectability--I would say they are likely to do so.
Big heavyweight Dems coming to support Lamont will move at least a point or two of Democrats to Lamont's side.
And the Democratic Wave will swamp whatever additional support Lieberman may have over Lamont.
This race will be VERY close--and I expect Lamont will win it, if we work hard enough and things fall our way. But DON'T get discouraged by the polls--because there's no way in Hell that this race will turn out that way.
Lamont has every structural advantage, and it's HIS race--and OURS--to win.