Primary Colors

Posted: Aug 07, 2006 12:14 AM

It’s August. In politics, it’s a time for Members of Congress to go home to brag about all the federal tax money they’ve managed to logroll and arm-twist into their districts. It’s a time for people in Washington to talk incessantly about the doldrums that have come upon us, and for columnists to write wistfully about all the exciting things that will happen in November and in 2008.

This August, domestic politics are, of course, taking a backseat to eruptions of violence in the Middle East.

But this Tuesday, in the midst of the August doldrums, there’s a wind picking up in Connecticut, Georgia, and Michigan in primary elections. And, where that wind may carry both parties going into mid-term elections is a development worth watching. Here are three to keep an eye on this week:

Lieberman vs. Lamont in Connecticut:

No one is short of opinions on this race. The Democratic primary for this Connecticut senate seat, long-held by moderate Democrat Joe Lieberman, is billed as a harbinger of the direction of the Democratic Party from now until 2008.

The powerful Internet activists of the liberal blogosphere plucked Lieberman’s challenger Ned Lamont, a millionaire businessman, from political obscurity to take up their anti-war banner against the hawkish veteran senator.

Should Lamont win—and polls show that he certainly could—the win would be viewed as Lieberman’s comeuppance for his support of President Bush on the War in Iraq, and serve as a warning to other Democrats with national aspirations. The Washington Post points out the trouble a Lamont win might cause for another war-supporting Democrat, who may have already seen the writing on the wall:

That could be felt most acutely by (Hillary) Clinton, who polls show is the early front-runner for the 2008 nomination and who has drawn criticism from what are known as net-roots activists for opposing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Clinton appears to have gotten the message, as she demonstrated with sharp questioning of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at a Senate hearing on Thursday.

The Polls:

A Quinnipiac poll last week showed Lieberman down more than 10 points to Lamont. The poll showed more than 60 percent of those voting for Lamont are casting their vote “against Lieberman,” based on his support of the war in Iraq.

The Controversy:

If Lieberman loses, it will have an impact on the message of the Democratic Party, which will undoubtedly forego the bother of coming up with positive, alternative plans for the country and stick with anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment as a platform.

But the race also means an official change in the people who write the message for the Democratic Party. The Left blogosphere’s rise to power within the Democratic Party began with fundraising for Howard Dean, continued with his appointment of head of the Democratic National Committee, and would culminate with a Lieberman loss on Tuesday.

Lamont has been the net-roots darling since the beginning of this race. Markos Moulitsas, proprietor of the Left’s highest-trafficked blog Daily Kos, appeared in a TV ad for the candidate, and Firedog Lake’s Jane Hamsher traveled with Lamont and produced video blogs for him.

All that coziness may get Lamont a win in Connecticut, but it comes at a price for the Democratic Party. This week, Hamsher had to issue an apology—though it was not much of one—for posting a picture of Lieberman in Photoshopped blackface on the popular liberal blog, The Huffington Post. The Lamont campaign had to ask Hamsher to remove the graphic, and Lamont himself pretended, rather unconvincingly, to know nothing of these blog things everyone’s been talking about.

No platform, but plenty of blackface? It may be the Democratic Party of the future.

McKinney vs. Johnson (GA-4)

This Democratic primary run-off could see the Capitol Police’s least favorite Congresswoman sent back to the Peach State. Cynthia McKinney finds herself in a run-off against a former Dekalb County Commissioner, and running scared.

The incumbent Congresswoman planned to run more than 200 TV ads per day for the last five days before the election.

The Polls:

McKinney came out slightly ahead of Johnson in the first primary, garnering 47 percent to his 44, but she’s fighting for a majority this time with the public opinion tide turning against her.

An early August poll showed Johnson with a 15-point lead over McKinney.

The Controversy:

On March 29, Congresswoman McKinney clobbered a Capitol Police officer with her cell phone or her fist, depending on which report you read. She entered the Capitol and tried to bypass security—a courtesy extended to Members—without wearing the pin that identifies her as a Member of Congress.

When a Capitol Police officer stopped her, she hit him, then blamed the incident and the charges brought against her on racism. McKinney has already been sent back to Dekalb once, due in part to anti-Semitic remarks and insinuations that the President and American corporations knew about the attacks of 9/11 before they happened, and stood to gain financially from them.

If McKinney goes home and the net-roots’ Lamont comes to Washington this fall, the Democrats can gain a net nut loss of zero.

Schwarz vs. Walberg (MI-7)

In this Republican primary, incumbent Joe Schwarz is facing his second straight primary challenge, this time from former state legislator Tim Walberg. Schwarz took the win in a five-way contest in 2004, but this year’s one-on-one race has brought in lots of outside money and lots more heat on Schwarz.

The Club for Growth has reportedly put more than $1 million into Walberg’s efforts, in support of his fiscally conservative record. The Club has gone after Schwarz for his record on spending.

For instance, the liberal Congressman from Michigan's 7th district, Joe Schwarz, sponsored or co-sponsored a whopping 43 bills totaling $26.65 billion in new spending versus only 2 bills that cut spending by $41 million (note the "b" and the "m" in the two figures).

Combined, he proposed $26.61 billion in net new spending.

There were 30 Democrats who advocated spending less than what Joe "RINO" Schwarz supported. Democrats like Alan Mollohan ($2.5 billion) and John Murtha ($11.9 billion).

If he goes down, despite backing from President Bush and the NRA, it may be a signal to other Republicans to shape up on spending and take care of corruption in the Congress to appease a cantankerous conservative base.

The Controversy:

Former FEC Chairman Brad Smith sent a letter to Schwarz’s campaign this week informing the camp that Schwarz’s latest ad violates McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law by not including the required disclosures.

The incident is unfortunate for Schwarz, especially considering he’s backed by none other than John McCain.

See? August can be fun, too. We’ve got nutroots, nuts coming to Congress, nuts leaving Congress, and the nutty idea of fiscal conservatism driving a Republican primary. Enjoy the races!