Reducing Lieberman’s Leverage

Joe Lieberman (narcistists for CT) is looking to continue his core political competency of extracting political rent from the Democratic Party to his own positions. Hey, he won the election, that is his right, but the Democratic Party has a few simple tools it can use to reduce Lieberman’s leverage. The most important point is that this leverage position is short term, no more than two years. There is a reasonable probability that the window of extortion will be narrower than that.

Assuming that both Virginia and Montana are declared Democratic wins in the next couple of days, the 51st caucusing Democrat is the marginal decision maker with significant influence in the agenda. This is an unstable equilibrium of power that can be significantly stabilized in a couple of different manners.

1) A credible promise from Harry Reid, backed up by the money folks on and off line that disloyalty will result in backbench exile along with complete loss of seniority in 2008. Mark Schmidt at TAPPED looks at the initial outline of the 2008 Senate landscape:

These are the Senators of Class II, those whose seats will be up in 2008. There are 12 Democrats, and 21 Republicans…..The only vulnerable Dem in the class is Mary Landrieu of Louisiana…..That’s seven possible pick-ups in 2008, plus three more that could be picked up with the right candidate. And what if Harold Ford runs against Lamar Alexander in Tennessee? What if Susan Collins in Maine draws a strong opponent? What about Elizabeth Dole, whose image of competence is as shattered as Dick Cheney’s? That’s thirteen seats the Republicans have to worry about either a little or a lot. And almost no potential for gains.

2) An enticement for a GOP Senator to switch caucuses even if not switching parties. The basic enticement is that the landscape north of Virginia and east of the Ohio/PA border is going to be as toxic for statewide Republicans in the next couple of cycles as the Deep South has been for Democrats over the previous two cycles. And therefore switching over to run effectively unopposed is a lot easier than raising $15-$20 million dollars and banking on the advantages of incumbency to get re-elected to support a party that is against your constiuent’s interests. Getting to the 52nd seat makes the counter defection pointless.

3) Wait for a Senator with an opposite party governor to die or resign. Given the age of some of the Senators, this is a decent chance for a control flip.

Unfortunately Joe Lieberman will be in the Senate on Jan. 3, 2007, but he should be functionally irrelevant by 2009.

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