Leading article: In deepest Connecticut, the plates are shifting

Share

It may seem a stretch from the present mayhem in the Middle East to a primary election battle in leafy, tranquil Connecticut, by many measures the wealthiest single state in the most affluent country in the world. But the connection is not only real. It is of vast potential import for US politics and for the future of American foreign policy - and thus for the future of us all.

The contest pits Joseph Lieberman, one of Connecticut's two Democratic Senators and the vice-presidential running mate of Al Gore in 2000, against a hitherto little-known businessman, Ned Lamont, for the right to carry the party's banner against the Republican candidate in November's congressional elections.

A couple of years ago, the thought of a challenge to Mr Lieberman from within his own party would have been a stretch in its own right. He was, after all, one of the best-known Democrats in the country, a widely respected politician who in 2004 made his own run for the White House. Even six months ago, he was leading his opponent by more than 30 per cent. Today, however, the gap has narrowed to single digits, and a stunning political upset next month is very much on the cards. The reason may be summed up in one word: Iraq.

Mr Lieberman was a vigorous supporter of the war from the outset, and remains one today, even though its cost is $6bn a month and American casualties exceed 2,550, while the country on which the US has expended so much blood and treasure slides towards civil war. But this unwavering backing for President Bush has increasingly isolated him in his home state, where opposition to the war is running at almost 70 per cent. It has also earned him the fury of grass-roots Democratic activists, convinced that the Washington-based leadership is losing touch with the party's core supporters and core values.

With increasing confidence and skill, Mr Lamont is exploiting these weaknesses. He insists his campaign is about other issues as well, such as the loss of American jobs overseas, and the inability of the US to offer universal health coverage to its citizens - failures, he says, in which Mr Lieberman and other centrist Democrats have been complicit.

But his selling point is his opposition to the war. Had all been sweetness and light in Iraq, Mr Lamont would never have entered the fray. Now that he has, however, the foreign policy rift in the Democratic party has been laid bare for all to see. And among the most interested observers has been one Karl Rove, master of winning elections for Republicans in general and for George W Bush in particular.

A couple of months ago, the Democrats looked a sure bet to regain either the Senate or the House of Representatives in November, paving the way for the recapture of the presidency in 2008. No longer. There is a palpable sense that the Republicans are making a modest recovery - thanks in part to the Democrats' disarray on Iraq, underlined by the primary in Connecticut.

Mr Lieberman's Democratic colleagues in the Senate have split three ways. Some refuse to back him even in the primary. Others support him now, but will not if he loses and (as he plans) runs as an independent. A third faction vows to stay with the Senator through thick and thin, be he Democrat or independent.

Given the Iraq débâcle, national security should have been the Republicans' Achilles heel in November. With typical counter-intuitive brilliance, Mr Rove has now chosen to make it the centrepiece of the autumn campaign. The strategy worked in 2002, and carried Mr Bush to victory in 2004. Will it work again in November 2006, and help another Republican into the White House in 2008?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: MS Dynamics NAV...

Technical / Engineering Manager - West Yorkshire - £50k+

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: The company ...

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS Dynamics N...

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Liberia immigration officers wearing protective gloves inspect the travel documents at a border post with Sierra Leone, 30 July (EPA)  

The Ebola outbreak teaches us an important lesson about aid

Natalie Bennett
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star