As was widely discussed in the ‘Sphere yesterday afternoon Senator Lieberman has endorsed McCain for the presidency. This move will, no doubt, further anger any number of Democrats, as Lieberman, despite his loss in the Democratic primary and his subsequent general election win as an “Independent Democrat” status, still caucuses with the Democrats. As such, this will be seen, as The Nation puts its, the Lieberman’s New Kiss of Death. Further, as the piece points out, it is a reversal of Lieberman’s previous position on the 2008 contest:
During his 2006 reelection campaign, Lieberman emphasized that he would support Democratic candidates in 2008. “I want Democrats to be back in the majority in Washington and elect a Democratic president in 2008,” he said during a televised debate in July. Lieberman promptly backtracked after his reelection, announcing this January that he was “open” to supporting a Republican or Democrat for president, depending “on a whole range of issues.” By not even waiting to see who the Democrats nominate, now Lieberman is revealing that the issues aren’t important to him, either.
And, for what it is worth, I think that Lieberman is endorsing McCain for more than just Iraq, although that is clearly part of it. I think it is the broader approach to the war on terror that the two men seem to share. At a minimum, anti-terrorism policy has seemed to be Lieberman’s guiding issue since 9/11.
Now, ultimately, the reaction of Democrats isn’t the issue here, but how this endorsement affects Republican primary voters and independents. Normally I find endorsements to be of little consequence, but I think that Lieberman’s support, along with other recent key press endorsements, could help McCain in a crowded and somewhat confused field. If anything, it has sent some free publicity his way, and will probably do so for a few days.
At a minimum, the timing is good to get voters in New Hampshire in particular, to take a second look. Further, this endorsement may enhance the view that McCain is electable, which will be a key factor as the GOP sorts out its field.
Despite his standing in the polls at the moment, I continue to think that McCain has a real chance to win the nomination, given the nature of the field. Consider the following: if Romney is too Mormon, too plastic and/or too flip-floppy, Rudy too socially liberal, odd and/or authoritarian, Huckabee too steeped in religion/Sunday School foreign policy and/or too fiscally liberal, and Thompson too lazy and/or empty, then does that make McCain the leftover alternative, even with his baggage within the party?