Lamont support: mile-wide, inch-deep

Donald Lambro

8/15/2006 12:01:00 AM - Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes you can tell a lot about a politician by the company he keeps or who his supporters are. That's especially true of millionaire Ned Lamont, who narrowly defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary last week.

As political strategists in both parties sifted through the voting patterns of Connecticut's primary, searching for clues about what it portends for the general election, an interesting set of facts has emerged about Lamont: his support comes largely from upper-income people.

Democrats like to boast that the base of their party is made up largely of "the little guy," hard-working middle- and lower-income people. But in Lamont's case, his pull-out-of-Iraq-now campaign appealed much more to so-called "limousine liberals" in Connecticut's wealthiest communities than it did in the working class, blue-collar factory towns where Joe Lieberman drew much of his support.

"Upon examination of the vote totals, there was an unmistakable wealth disparity between the supporters of Ned Lamont and those who voted for Joe Lieberman," according to a detailed analysis of Tuesday's vote by the Republican National Committee.

"Voters in communities with a higher median income were more apt to cast a vote for Ned Lamont, whereas Joe Lieberman's support was elicited from voters in communities with a much more modest median income," an RNC memo said. Now, there's nothing wrong with having money, but the voting data tell us a lot about who Lamont's anti-war message resonated with versus the people who were drawn to Lieberman's support for the war on terrorism in Iraq. Among the RNC's findings:

-- Lamont carried 19 out of the state's 20 richest communities by a combined 59 percent to 41 percent margin. Notably, these 20 towns "have an average median household income of $104,626."

-- In sharp contrast, Lieberman won in communities where the average median household is $53,424, close to the national median income range, while Lamont won in towns where the median household income was nearly $68,000.

-- "By comparison, Lieberman won six of the 10 largest towns in the state, by a combined margin of 52 percent to 48 percent," towns that have an average median income of $42,129 or just about the national median income level.

-- "Broken down by Congressional District, Lieberman carried the lowest-income district, the 3rd, while Lamont garnered his largest margins in the two highest-income districts, the 4th and the 2nd," according to the RNC. Connecticut, whose western counties like Fairfield are upscale bedroom communities for New York brokers and investment bankers, is one of the wealthiest states in the country. And much, if not most, of Lamont's support came from its richest neighborhoods.

Drawing any broad conclusions or forecasts from this is a dangerous business, but there are more voters in Connecticut who are closer to the median income level than those among the wealthier voting blocs who heavily supported Lamont. While voter turnout in the primary was unexpectedly high, a majority of eligible voters did not participate, though many more no doubt will in the general election when Lieberman will be on the ballot as an independent candidate.

A largely unknown Republican will be on the ballot, too, but this race is now between just two people: Lamont and Lieberman who, by the way, is strongly supported by many Republicans, according to the Gallup Poll.

At the same time, a Quinnipiac University poll showed that Lieberman led Lamont among voters earning less than $30,000 by 49 percent to 47 percent, and among voters making between $30,000 and $50,000 by 49 to 45 percent. Lamont, on the other hand, led by nine points among people making more than this, while drawing the support of 60 percent of those earning more than $100,000. If Lieberman's advantage among lower income voters holds up, and more of them turn out Election Day as expected, he should beat Lamont in November.

These income numbers also tell us something about the political reach and clientele of the leftist netroot movement made up of MoveOn.org, and an army of angry antiwar bloggers such as Daily Kos, who fueled Lamont's insurgent candidacy.

Their much-ballyhooed political influence could well be miles wide but an inch-deep, activating well-educated, Internet-savvy voters but not the lower-to-median income masses who are too busy working to spend time surfing the Web and who still think Islamist terrorism poses a major threat to our country and our way of life.

Notably, Lamont trounces Lieberman among college-educated voters by more than 20 points, but Lieberman leads among noncollege voters.

Last week's reports of terrorist plots to blow up passenger planes will no doubt enlarge this issue in the voters' minds in the days to come to the GOP's benefit. And in Connecticut, I suspect, Lamont's "blame America first" pitch that the United States is "making the situation worse" in the war on terror will quickly lose its political appeal.