Connecticut and Capitol Hill
It turned out that had Al Gore won the presidency in 2000, the decision by his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, to simultaneously run for both the vice presidency and for reelection to the Senate effectively guaranteed that Republicans would retain control of the Senate, where the GOP held a 54-46 advantage before the election.
In 2000, Connecticut had a Republican governor, who would have replaced “Vice President Lieberman” in the Senate with a Republican, resulting in a 5149 Republican majority. However, if vice presidential candidate Lieberman had declined to run for re-election to the Senate and instead “made way for the state’s popular [Democratic] attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, who would have won easily,” and if Mr. Gore had won the presidency, the New Yorker recently observed, “then the new Senate would have split 50-50, with Vice President Lieberman breaking the tie in favor of Democrats. But, by insisting on having it both ways, Lieberman single-handedly guaranteed that the new Senate would be Republican — either by a 51-49 margin under a Gore administration or (as it turned out) by the [50-50] tie-breaking vote of Vice President Cheney.”
It is merely speculative at this stage of the 2006 elections, but lightning may strike twice. It is conceivable that Mr. Lieberman once again could singlehandedly determine that Republicans maintain control of a congressional chamber. This time, some political strategist speculate, Mr. Lieberman’s decision to run for re-election to the Senate as an independent after losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont may provide just enough ticket-splitting moderate voters to re-elect three Connecticut Republican representatives — Nancy Johnson, Christopher Shays and Rob Simmons — all of whom are involved in tight races with Democratic opponents. All three won re-election with less than 55 percent of the vote and all three represent districts that voted for John Kerry in 2004.
Democrats need to gain 15 seats to reclaim a majority in the House. In the blue state of Connecticut, where Democrats control two-thirds of each house in the legislature, Democrats consider all three Republican-held House seats to be prime candidates for Democratic takeovers. However, some strategists in both parties have argued that Mr. Lieberman’s remaining in the Senate race improves the chances of the three Republican representatives. On the day after Mr. Lieberman’s primary defeat, for example, The Washington Post reported that some Democrats fear that the continued divisions within their party “could affect their chances of capturing” the three Republican House seats. Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, echoed that view. “Anyone who is going to vote for Lieberman, my guys can get,” he told the New York Times.
On the margin, where the three Connecticut House seats and control of the entire chamber may well be decided, Joe Lieberman may once again deliver for the Republican Party.