Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Wednesday | July 09, 2003

How they can win: Lieberman

Welcome to Part VI of the six-part series "how they can win", featuring the six "serious" candidates: Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry and Lieberman.

For purposes of this scenario building, I'm assuming all six candidates are running strong, without the presence of a major scandal or foot-in-mouth incident.

This edition features Lieberman, who entered the race fresh of his performance as Al Gore's VP nominee, riding on a wave of high name recognition he hopes to parlay into electoral success.

District of Columbia: 1.13
Lieberman doesn't even pretend to compete here.

Iowa: 1.19
Lieberman's camp has been playing the expectations game in Iowa, floating the occassional rumor that their man will bypass the state altogether. Historically, candidates who have fared REALLY poorly in Iowa have never gone anywhere, so it's a curious strategy.

Especially considering this: the state is Gephardt's to lose. Everyone assumes a Gephardt victory is inevitable, so the focus is on the battle for second place, which will be waged by Dean and Kerry. That means that the candidate who comes in fourth will also be able to claim victory. Given the size of the field, and given Lieberman's high name ID, there's no reason why Lieberman should ignore this opportunity. A fourth place would be well in reach, and would provide a small boost to his candidacy.

And the alternative -- a distant fifth or sixth could be fatal. So for the purposes of this scenario, Lieberman pulls in a fourth-place finish, giving him a small but real momentum boost heading into:

New Hampshire: 1.27
The main stage will feature a battle between Dean and Kerry. Whoever comes in second will likely be out of the race. Whoever comes in third, however, will become the de facto "moderate" candidate.

Again, given the size of the field, the third place candidate will not need a large number of votes to edge out his competitors. And given his high name ID, Lieberman has a good shot at taking the number three slot, giving him a great deal of momentum heading into:

South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma: 2.2
Dean/Kerry (whoever is the survivor at this point) will be conserving energy and resources this week, leaving the "moderates" to sort themselves out. The trick this day is to win as many states as possible. You win more than your opponent, you survive, the rest perish.

Delaware will go to Dean/Kerry. Missouri will go to Gephardt. Lieberman's task will be to win SC, AZ, and OK. He wins those, he's in the clear. Edwards, Graham, and Gephardt are all toast.

Michigan, Washington (caucus): 2.7
Lieberman is now in for a rough patch. Michigan and Washington are not friendly territory. He takes a pass, looking forward to February 10.

Maine: 2.8
Lieberman cedes this state, looking ahead to:

Virginia, Tennessee: 2.10
Given that these are southern states, Lieberman will be under intense pressure to win both of them, lest he look "weak" in the press expectations game. And he wouldn't want to give Dean/Kerry any additional momentum heading into the critical Super Tuesday primary.

Wisconsin: 2.17
Lieberman takes a pass.

Idaho: 2.24 and Utah: 2.27
Given the critical Super Tuesday primary just a week away, Lieberman must win these states. Anything else and he'll be hounded by a press wondering why he couldn't win these "conservative" states. And, by losing these states, he would give his opponent crucial momentum heading into the most important day in this election:

California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, North Dakota, Texas, Washington (primary): 3.2
The states favor Lieberman's more liberal opponent. As such, he needs to limit the damage and live to fight in the southern Super Tuesday a week later. If he can pull even or make a respectable showing, then Lieberman can wrap things up, victorious, a week later.

Of the 14 states this day, only five can be deemed reasonably friendly to a Lieberman candidacy -- CT, GA, OH, ND and TX. That won't be enough to stem the tide. He will have to "surprise", and "shock the establishment" by winning states no one thought he could win. He needs to win NY (very possible, actually). California would seal the deal in his favor.

With a big "liberal" state under his belt, Lieberman can claim victory and cruise through the rest of the primary season the party's eventual nominee.

Bottom line: Despite utterances to the contrary, Lieberman has to compete in IA and NH. But the bar for him in those states is pretty low -- a 4th place finish in IA and a third place finish in NH and he's riding pretty heading into more friendly territory.

The primary calendar doesn't favor Lieberman, but he'll have an easier time winnowing out the "moderate" candidates. Since the "moderate" side of the field is crowded with at least four, possibly six candidates, he'll need far fewer votes to win his states. And that's where his high name ID can come into play. For Dean and Kerry, it's a 50+1 proposition. For Lieberman, 15-20 percent may be enough.

Posted July 09, 2003 08:56 AM


Bush Administration
Business and Economy
Foreign Policy

© 2002. Steal all you want.
(For non-commercial use, that is.)