Andrew Buncombe: Result leaves Hillary Clinton with tough choice to make over Iraq


Forget about Joe Lieberman. The wider fall-out from Connecticut is about the impact one issue will have on the next presidential election and it relates most powerfully to one woman. The issue is Iraq and the woman is Hillary Clinton.

Regardless of whether Mr Lieberman recovers from his defeat and holds his Senate seat as an independent candidate come November, events in Connecticut have underlined the strength of bitter opposition within the Democratic Party towards the war in Iraq and the danger to any politician who ignores it.

It is not a straightforward equation. Mr Lieberman did not lose simply because he had been outspoken in his support for President George Bush's policy of occupation. His challenger, Ned Lamont, while politically inexperienced, was persuasive, credible and had millions of dollars at his disposable. He also had the support of internet-based activists nationwide.

But for all Mr Lieberman's attempts to frame the contest as a debate over bipartisanship, the battle in liberal Connecticut was ultimately about a war thousands of miles away which has so far cost the lives of more than 2,500 US troops, probably more than 100,000 Iraqis and has established a deadly pit of chaos at the heart of the Middle East.

For Hillary Clinton, who will probably be the front-runner among Democratic candidates in 2008, the problem is this: how do you appear to be strong on national security while still securing the support of anti-war Democrats? If she moves left to win the anti-war vote she would be vulnerable against a Republican challenger such as John McCain, while if she remains hawkish on national security she leaves an opportunity to an anti-war candidate during the primary contest such as Russ Feingold or John Edwards. To avoid both pitfalls will require a masterly balancing act or a display of more charisma than Mrs Clinton has yet shown.

"Hillary Clinton has to look at this and work out what it means for her," said David Corn, Washington editor of the Nation magazine. "If Edwards or Feingold take on a very clear anti-war position and she waffles, it will become the defining issue of the presidential primary." Indeed a poll at the end of May by John Zogby suggested Mrs Clinton would be strongly challenged if a staunchly anti-war candidate ran against her. The poll suggested she would secure 38 per cent while an anti-war candidate would secure 32 per cent. The rest would opt for another candidate all together.

Patrick Basham, director of the Democracy Institute, a think-tank in Washington, spelt out the risk of Mrs Clinton being dragged leftwards. "A Republican candidate of the likes of McCain, with his combination of military service, foreign policy experience and hawkish voting record, will dwarf his Democratic rival in terms of their perceived national security credentials." For internet activists, Mr Lamont's win showed the power of "net-roots" campaigns - started during Howard Dean's failed bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004. The Daily Kos website, "home" to many Democrats who opposed Mr Lieberman, wrote: "What [the result] showed is that democracy can work. That even the most powerful, entrenched forces can be dislodged by people-power. We can make a difference, and we will."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page


In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine