"At a time when the GOP should be back on its heels, Connecticut voters' rejection of a centrist Senator gives the party a potentially powerful new weapon to use against the Democrats this fall.
From Washington State to Missouri to Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates found themselves on the defensive Wednesday as the Republican Party worked ferociously at every level to try to use the primary defeat of Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut to portray the oppposition as the party of weakness and isolation on national security and liberal leanings on domestic policy. Doleful Democrats bemoaned the irony: At a time when Republicans should be back on their heels because of chaos abroad and President Bush's unpopularity, the Democrats' rejection of a sensible, moralistic centrist has handed the GOP a weapon that could have vast ramifications for both the midterm elections of '06 and the big dance of '08.
One of the nip-and-tuck Senate races this year is in Missouri, and backers of Sen. Jim Talent are preparing an attack on his opponent, State Auditor Claire McCaskill, that is emblematic of the sort that will be seen all over the country within 24 hours. "Does Claire McCaskill support the wishes of the angry left by endorsing Ned Lamont's candidacy or will she support the man who was chosen by Al Gore as the Democrat's 2000 nominee for Vice President?" Republicans ask in a statment that will force McCaskill to talk about messy party business instead of her favored issues of government accountablity and affordable health care.
House candidates planned a similar tack, and the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a memo this morning playing up the potential distraction of Lieberman's independent candidacy in a state where three GOP incumbents — Reps. Rob Simmons, Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson — are perennially endangered. The memo said Connecticut Democrats "will now continue to train their attention on vanquishing S