Thursday, August 03, 2006

CT Sen: Lieberman falls, Lamont Surges

With only five days to go, the Connecticut Senate primary polling points to a continued decline in Sen. Joe Lieberman's support, while Ned Lamont as surged dramatically. Two Quinnipiac polls, one completed August 31 and the other July 18, sampled likely Democratic primary voters. These and earlier Quinnipiac samples point to a steady and sharp decline in Lieberman's standing with voters, and the ineffectiveness of his campaign for renomination by his party. Meanwhile, previously unknown challenger Net Lamont has surged from under 20% of the vote in February to 54% in the latest survey compared to 41% for Lieberman.

There are important caveat's about the difficulty of sampling likely primary voters in Connecticut. See MysteryPollster's excellent analysis of that here. In the graph, it is also important to note the change from a registered Democratic sample prior to June and to a sample of likely Democratic primary voters since then. This change is responsible for some (but not all) of the apparent decline in Lieberman support and Lamont's rise. But focusing on only the three polls since June, the trends are clear.

Perhaps the single most disturbing result (from Lieberman's perspective) from the latest Quinnipiac survey is Lieberman's loss of support among moderate and conservative Democrats in Connecticut. In June (6/6) he held 61% of moderate or conservative Democrats likely to vote in the primary vs 26% for Lamont. In mid-July (7/18) that still held at 59% vs 39%. But in the latest sample (7/31) Lieberman's support among this group has fallen to 49% (vs 45% for Lamont.) If anyone in the Democratic party could save Lieberman, it would be the moderate/conservative Dems who make up a slight majority of the likely primary voters. That earlier advantage in support seems to have now essentially vanished. (Liberals have shifted from 49% to 32% to 31% over this same time in Lieberman support, with Lamont support rising from 41% to 67% to 66%.)

This is a remarkable collapse for Lieberman. While the war issue is the most mentioned reason for opposing him and supporting Lamont, the inability of a veteran Senator to respond to this challenge and rally his campaign supporters is stunning. Next Tuesday we'll find out if the polls were right or not. But regardless, the ineffectual Lieberman campaign is a reminder that incumbents are "safe" only when they have the skill to keep themselves so.

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