I think Ned Lamont achieved his goal in yesterday’s debate quite handily — introduce himself to a lot of people and show that he’s not the angry loon he’s been characterized as, nor is he a slick pol. His sincerity came through, and scanning the papers today he seems to be winning a lot of converts. Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post, in an online chat today:
New Hampshire: Good morning, Jim and thanks for taking my question.
I watched with interest the Lamont/Lieberman debate. Though Mr. Lamont looked a tad nervous early on, I thought he quickly eliminated that and got down to the issues that matter to democratic voters and made substantive points. Lieberman appeared and sounded petulant and irritable. I thought that his numerous repetitions of Reagan’s line– "there you go again"– most unbecoming, especially for a supposed Democrat. Joe Lieberman appeared supercilious and he actually made some completely false statements. In short, I think Ned Lamont won the debate. What is your take on the debate and the situation in Conn. in general?
Jim VandeHei: lots of interest in the debate, based on the questions. I missed the first half of the debate so I went to Dan Balz and sassy Shalaigh Murray for their take on the exchange and then surveyed a few people i consider smart political minds. I will have the chat master post Murray’s terrific story for this morning’s paper. It appears Lamont did nothing to hurt his chances of pulling off what would be a huge upset in the upcoming primary. Lieberman also showed the benefits of experience and his ability to shift debating styles. That was not the affable Joe we saw against Cheney in 2000. He was tough, assertive, even dismissive. If Lamont appeared rattled early on, he certainly held his own in the end. I have never considered debates make or break events and they often tend to reinforce preexisting views. But if Lieberman’s strategy was to show Lamont was not-ready-for-prime time, or at least not ready to deliver for his state, I doubt the senator accomplished his mission.
Jim VandeHei: This is Murray’s take via email (the bottom of her after-action report was cut off; sorry).
It was startling to see Lieberman go so negative right away. We haven’t seen that side of him in quite a while — but it’s clear why his last tough opponent, Lowell Weicker, loathes him so. Clearly he decided his best approach to the war question was to make Lamont look like a rookie who didn’t get the big important stuff. I was also surprised to see him drill away at Lamont’s wealth — in Connecticut no less. Surely the lowest point was when Lieberman complained he had to raise his own campaign millions. If it’s true that Connecticut voters are just plain tired of Lieberman — the hunch lots of people have, including Lieberman backers — I’m not sure he helped himself all that much. Lamont was a little green and nervous, a fast talker, but he was pretty articulate and didn’t look the part of a lefty lunatic.
Washington, D.C.: How would you assess Lieberman’s performance last night? I found him to be nearly groveling and a trifle bit pathetic. I’m not a CT voter, but my girlfriend is–and her entire family seems pretty pro-Lamont. I think last night may have only bolstered their support.
Jim VandeHei: Lieberman is in a box. He represents a left of center state and is running in a primary dominated by liberals. Liberals, generally speaking, hate the war and hate Bush. Lieberman has supported both, arguably with more passion than any other prominent Democrat. The liberal-dominated blogs loathe him and have made his defeat their cause. This is not a position other incumbents envy. That said, polling suggests he holds a double-digit lead, but every dem I have talked with over the past week said the lead is shrinking and that Lieberman’s decision to run as independent if needed is concrete evidence he is very nervous about losing to Lamont. It is the best race in the country right now.
I know Ned was a bit nervous at the beginning after having Lieberman open with a mean-spirited attack (one wonders what the past six years might have looked like if he’d unleashed that intensity on Darth Cheney), but I actually think that worked for Ned. It reminded me of Patrick Fitzgerald’s initial nervousness at the Libby press conference, and it showed people that he’s a real guy, unlike Shifty Joe. The fact that many who watched this were won over by Ned’s performance is not surprising.