Dionne Scott on Joe Lieberman
msnbc.com
updated 2/5/2004 11:58:15 AM ET 2004-02-05T16:58:15

Thursaday, Feb. 5

Over and out
Escaping the uncertainty and the rivalries of the campaign trail, Wednesday Senator Lieberman returned to Connecticut -- where he’s the hero, he’s the most popular and he appears to be loved by all.  This afternoon at Hartford’s City Hall, the Senator spoke to a roomful of longtime colleagues, supporters and staff, thanking them all for their support.

Like last night, Lieberman remained upbeat with his wife and children by his side. The reception was overwhelmingly warm. When he entered the room, the audience started to clap and the clapping got progressively louder and faster. They then broke into the now-familiar “Let’s Go Joe”. It could have gone on for several minutes, if the guest of honor had not raised his hands to speak.

That morning, Lieberman said he arrived at the Hartford airport, only to receive a standing round of applause from a group of strangers outside the gate when he got off the plane.

“I can’t tell you… they probably don’t know how much that meant to me. It is so good to be back among longtime friends in the state where I was born, where I grew up, where I was educated.”

Tomorrow, Lieberman said he will return to the Senate and resume his duties, but he said he’ll also bring with him his new ideas from the campaign, like creating a center for cures of diseases.

This morning, Lieberman received calls from all of his rivals as well as Senator Bob Graham, Senator John McCain and according to one campaign aide, Al Gore. No details were given on any of those conversations.

Wednesday, Feb. 4

Senator Lieberman bowed out of the presidential race Tuesday night true to form -- with a smile on his face, waving to the crowd and throwing his trademark punch in the air. There was no crying or fighting back tears, not even a hint of devastation.

His decision wasn’t a surprise. Since the New Hampshire primary, there had been speculation as to when Lieberman would drop out and many had spoken about it as if it were a foregone conclusion. But what was striking, was the cheer and pride in the post-election party room, named the Senate Ballroom of the Arlington Hyatt. And while the senator did bow out with his head held high, the evening still lacked the human emotion one would expect or even in some cases, longed to see from a man who, it seems, was always is under control. Oddly enough, it was that stoicism, at least in part, that dogged the senator throughout his campaign.

From a speech he wrote on a yellow legal pad, the Senator told the audience the voters had made their choice and he was compelled to honor that. "I know the results are disappointing," but he told his supporters, "I got to tell you, I feel like a winner. The judgment of the voters is now clear." He went on to congratulate Kerry and Edwards on their victories and thank Clark, Dean, Kucinich and Sharpton for their contributions to the race.

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When the night ended, Lieberman’s favorite song played in the background - Sinatra’s "My Way". As campaign spokesperson Kiki McLean characterized the evening, "This is not heartbreak hotel tonight." Only Lieberman’s wife Hadassah and their 15-year-old daughter Hana seemed to fight back tears.

This -- despite a disappointing finish for a candidate who a year ago many would have believed was the natural heir to the Democratic nomination.

The decision to drop out had apparently come easily. Of course, there had been reports throughout the day that the senator was already considering and planning for the possibility. Campaign Director Craig Smith said he’d spoken to Lieberman on the phone about five or six times throughout the day. They never directly spoke about the Senator dropping out. "Sometimes you just don’t ask," Smith said. Instead, the two spoke around the issue, discussing the polls. But at one point Smith, who was at the campaign headquarters in Arlington, did tell the senator, "You know you’re going to have come over here and tell us what you’re going to do, right?"

And he did -- after 8pm. At which time, joined by his wife and children, he took senior staff into a back room and informed them of his decision. Surprise guests, Senator Chris Dodd and Rep. John Larson also showed up. The senator told the staff he was a realist and he had to bow out.

In the end, the Senator, some staff and supporters acknowledged his lack of fire.

"I may not have shouted the loudest," Lieberman said. But most held steadfast to the notion that his platform was the best to beat Bush, "I am proud that I took the toughest positions in support of what I believed was right for our country."

Still, Deputy Campaign Director Brian Hardwick added, "There wasn’t anything to be embarrassed about. We didn’t make any blunders."

The Senator said he would continue the fight for the causes he championed in his campaign and support the eventual nominee. Tomorrow, he plans to speak in his home state at Hartford’s City Hall.

Tuesday, Feb. 3

It's all about Delaware
In the final days leading up to the Feb. 3 primaries, the Lieberman campaign seemed to be whittling down to one, at least one state where their candidate has a chance. Before the New Hampshire election, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Delaware seemed to be the Senator’s main focus. After the primary, more trips were planned to Oklahoma and Delaware than the others. Late last night though, it seemed all the focus had been turned to Delaware. The campaign decided to skip a final and eighth trip to Oklahoma on its way to Delaware, instead opting to fly from Arizona straight back to Delaware. According to a press aide, this way the Senator wouldn’t lose time flying Oklahoma. In addition to three events, throughout the day tomorrow, the Senator will do quite a bit of free local media. As of late tonight, he has nine radio calls and two television interviews planned in Delaware, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arizona. The bulk of them will be in Delaware. This would make six visits to the first state for Lieberman. He’s been to the state more than any other candidate, which means in some ways, it’s his to lose. And if he does, it will be a little like Gore losing Tennessee.

Out of the mouths of babes
Monday, Senator Lieberman’s one-stop free media moment in New Mexico seemed to oddly encapsulate the doubt surrounding the campaign’s viability since the senator placed fifth in New Hampshire. Mid-morning, Lieberman visited the north side of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and spoke to a group of largely Hispanic kids at East San Jose Community Elementary School. After giving a version of his stump speech, the Senator asked the audience of over 100 children and 20 adults for questions. Little hands shot up everywhere. The first few questions ranged from the kids ‘why did you support the war?’ to ‘why do you want to be president?’ But part way between, there was a set of direct questions from the kids that ironically highlighted the state of the campaign.

The first - "Who are you voting for?" The next - "How many votes do you have?" And finally -- "Who’s in the lead for President?" Lieberman chuckled at all of the questions and managed a response without flinching. But I note -- he appeared eager to move on after each one -- his answers were considerably shorter to each of them than is the norm.

Meantime another potential embarrassment, at least on the surface - the school principal and the Senator teased the arrival of a "special guest" a number of times during Lieberman’s visit to East San Jose. The guest was supposed to be Governor Bill Richardson, but after Lieberman answered a host of questions from the kids, it was clear the governor wasn’t going to show up. It turns out he was flying back from the Super Bowl in Houston and his plane was late.

Shot at Kerry
Senator Lieberman took a veiled shot at Kerry today on his environmental record.

The Senator was asked how he would differentiate himself from his rival on the environment, given that The League of Conservation Voters had endorsed his rival.

"I think if anybody you ask the environmental community will say no one in this race has a better record in the environment than I do. I think that particular group made what I call, a tactical decision, not a substantive decision," Lieberman responded.

For the most part, Lieberman has refrained from attacking Kerry, particularly after Edwards placed so high in Iowa, playing the nice candidate. This time, Lieberman’s criticism of Kerry was prompted. Nevertheless, he didn’t really hold back.

Friday, Jan. 30

Senator Lieberman, grasping for a message that resonates, has latched on to a newspaper headline courtesy of the Arizona Republic. Thursday, the newspaper endorsed the senator and challenged its nearly half a million readership to "Be Bold", and vote for the candidate who best reflects the moderate to conservative politics of the state, despite the New Hampshire primary. During the debate, in Oklahoma and in the spin room, Lieberman made mention of the Arizona editorial and called on South Carlonians to "be bold". And before the debate, he held a press avail solely to talk about the Republic endorsement.

"They said Arizona Democrats have a chance to be bold, to let their strong independent voices ring loud across this nation. When they vote in Tuesday’s primary, Arizona Democrats ought to be willing, even eager to plant a cactus in the Rose Garden. So right here, I want to say - South Carolina Democrats ought to be willing, even eager to plant the Palmetto in the Rose Garden, by voting for Joe Lieberman."

In Oklahoma, in fact, there were quite a few voters who said they liked Lieberman, but they didn’t think he could win the nomination. Tulsa resident Chris Kaiser said, "Yeah, I like him. How could you not?" But, he said, at this moment, he didn’t believe he could win the nomination. "I would have no hesitancy voting for him. You know, as long as it’s uh… you know you don’t want to waste a vote on… if he has no chance. Just depending on how the race is going. If he’s got a chance, sure. I’d have no problem."

When I asked Lieberman how he planned to rally people into being "bold", he didn’t seem to have a solution, only reverting to his old Granite State line - pundits and polls don’t pick presidents, people do.

Meantime, the campaign appeared to be scrambling to figure out which of the seven states to target over the next few days. The schedule seems to be in flux, but the senator will be campaigning in Delaware on Friday.

Thursday, Jan. 29

As Lieberman continued the primary fight in Oklahoma today into Thursday, his campaign is hoping he can appeal to moderate and conservative voters, they believe, make up a significant percentage of voters in Oklahoma and other Feb. 3 states. The campaign believes there’s a need for a moderate voice in the Democratic Party and their candidate fills that void.

Wednesday, the Senator held a press avail topping off his events in the Sooner State, explaining why he was there and what he brings to the table.

"I’m here to bring the unique message that I’ve brought throughout this campaign. I am the one experienced moderate Democrat in this race and it is critically important that our party remember that it has been with moderate leadership that we have won elections and served the people."

Neither the message nor the strategy is dissimilar to the one Lieberman used in New Hampshire. But a senior aide says the campaign was in part, encouraged to continue the fight by some of the exit polling information they received in the Granite State. Apparently, Lieberman did well among church-goers and voters who considered themselves conservative. The numbers for both of those groups are small in New Hampshire, but the campaign believes they make up at least a third of the voters in Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Deputy Campaign Director Brian Hardwick says primary night at the Senator’s Manchester apartment, senior advisors laid out this information and other facts for Lieberman once they knew how the NH race would turn out. The Senator was given the campaign’s financial situation and the strategic possibilities. Upon hearing those details, he and his family made the decision to continue the race. The campaign also believes the South Carolina and Missouri debates will give Lieberman another opportunity to shine.

Wednesday, Jan. 28

Tuesday night, Senator Lieberman decided to stay in the primary race, despite a disappointing fifth place finish in the New Hampshire. The Senator characterized the final returns as a "three-way split decision", declaring "The battle cry goes on, the battle cry goes on with the confidence that I am ready to be the president that America needs now."

But for a good part of this New Hampshire campaign, the Senator’s mantra has been that he will do "better than expected". Despite the vagueness of that statement -- since the Iowa caucus, what has been expected is a fifth place finish. A senior advisor argues that between Edwards, Clark and Lieberman there were only a few points. "At the end of the day, you can spin it anyway you want to spin it," he said.

Lieberman explained that for him and his supporters, the race was more than a campaign.

"It is a cause, and we’re ready to take that cause now to the rest of America." He told a crowded room of supporters that the cause was for a fight to put national interests before special interests and to defend the nation’s security and to advance the causes of social justice and equal rights.

Still, at least half an hour before Lieberman spoke, his supporters seemed resigned to the possibility that their candidate would bow out. While the song "Don’t Stop Believing" from the 1980s group Journey replayed in the background, there were comments like "you do the best you can do, but…" and "life goes on". For a good part of the evening, the crowd was subdued. The chants of "Let’s Go Joe" didn’t come until much later. One supporter who called himself an eternal optimist did say he didn’t think it was over for the Senator.

Lieberman’s mother, Marcia Lieberman, told me her family and her son were in good spirits. She also told me about the time Lieberman and Al Gore lost the election in 2000 and she told her son at least he didn’t lose his life. She said she was grateful he had the opportunity to run given that he came from a middle class family and an ethnic group. "That could only have happened in America." She said everything happens for a reason and added, "It’s not over ‘til it’s over,."

After his speech, the Senator gave several interviews with the networks in a side room with his wife Hadassah, daughters Rebecca and Hana and son Ethan accompanying him. At one point, Hadassah and Rebecca broke out in song, softly though, singing "Oklahoma". Lieberman then joined in, as well as two press people.

Tomorrow, the Senator will be in Oklahoma. The campaign canceled its flight to Delaware due to bad weather. He then heads to South Carolina on Thursday, then Delaware on Friday.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Sen. Lieberman, campaign aides and the traveling press corps spent Monday night watching the Iowa caucus returns at videolink in Manchester where the senator gave four cable television interviews. The senator seemed honestly energized by the results of the Iowa race, repeating the phrase “Iowa’s over. New Hampshire is a whole new ballgame.”

That mood was similar throughout the day during a seven-city fly-around in New Hampshire. His stump speech has sharpened and his sell to voters has become more direct. Today, he veered away from criticizing Dean or Clark, instead pushing the idea that he’s the candidate who can beat Bush and laying out the reasons why.

During a rally with supporters, the Senator asked, “What is Karl Rove going to do if I’m the nominee?” He then answered, “They can’t call me weak on defense… They can’t call me a tax and spend liberal… And just let them try to drive a wedge on values.”

Lieberman is also uncharacteristically critical of Bush personally, insulting the president’s intellect when explaining his own strength on defense. “I was fighting Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden probably before George Bush knew how to pronounce their names, you know?”

According to spokesperson Jano Cabrera, the speech is Lieberman’s “closing argument” for New Hampshire voters who are basically, professional voters and they can be expected to look beyond the primary to the general election. Cabrera says if Dean, Kerry, Edwards or Clark were the nominee, you know what the Republicans would use against them. But with Lieberman, it’s not so easy.

Union Leader endorsement
Lieberman was endorsed by N.H.’s only statewide newspaper, the Union Leader. The senator was thrilled with the news, but the paper is considered conservative. On the one hand, it may not sway solid Democrats to support him. But it may persuade independent voters - a group Lieberman is banking on to do well in N.H. - to back him.

“What they [Union Leader] say is important. They talk about my consistency, my fight to do what’s right, my willingness to work across party lines to make the government work for people. And I love when they said the folks in the White House better worry that Joe Lieberman doesn’t get the Democratic nomination because he’ll, he’ll give them a real fight.”

Monday, Jan. 19

On the eve of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the Iowa caucuses, Lieberman looked to South Carolina and its highly courted bloc of African American voters. On a one-day visit to the city of Columbia and three rural communities in the southern part of the state, the senator unveiled a comprehensive plan to cut the poverty rate to its lowest in history.

Lieberman told a small audience at the historic Columbia home of Modjeska Monteith Simkins, one of South Carolina’s renowned civil rights leaders, that, as president, he would provide working poor with a path to play on a level playing field. "If you’re working hard in this country every day, as millions do. You shouldn’t have to live below the poverty line. The ladder of opportunity has to be there for you to climb and be rewarded. And the rungs of that ladder have to be sturdy, not slippery."

The plan incorporates a number of policies previously unveiled by Lieberman, such as creating new jobs and providing tax cuts. The new proposals include helping working class families buy homes and invest in small businesses; and improving education in poor communities by creating partnerships between private businesses and public schools.

Meantime, the tight race in Iowa could throw a wrench in the senator’s strategy for capturing the nomination. All along he’s banked on Howard Dean winning Iowa and/or New Hampshire, effectively diminishing the impact of either Dick Gephardt or John Kerry in the race and allowing Lieberman to emerge as the anti-Dean. But, as of late, he’s had to battle with Clark for that position, making both Clark and Dean as his primary rivals. But now, with Kerry and Edwards surging in Iowa and Dean slipping there, that game plan may prove to be useless.

When asked what happens if Kerry comes barreling out of Iowa into New Hampshire or Dean emerges less shiny and appealing, Lieberman said he wasn’t going to deal in hypotheticals, but said he remained optimistic.

"The race could have a totally different complexion to it after Monday. We don’t know. It’s totally up for grabs, and particularly in the unique context of the caucus. But then the second is… and we also obviously don’t know what affect that will have on New Hampshire. You know they’re fairly… historically they tend to want to make a statement."

The senator also noted that Dean still has a following in New Hampshire and that can’t be forgotten.

Tomorrow, while Iowans wrap up caucus day, Lieberman will be near the end of a seven-city charter flight around New Hampshire, no doubt hoping his 26 days in the state for the last two months weren’t for naught.

Tuesday, Jan. 6

On Bradley endorsing Dean
If anyone was expecting a clever quip from Lieberman on Bill Bradley’s endorsement of Dean, forget it. Since Gore endorsed the governor, the senator has said he doesn’t believe pundits and polls decide elections. Today, he used that line again: "The only thought that I have is what I’ve felt all along that I find as I talk to people in New Hampshire that they’re not going to be told by any pundit or politician who they should vote for in the New Hampshire primary. These folks in New Hampshire are feisty, independent-minded voters."

Sunday, Jan. 4

Domestic violence plan
When Carmen Robinson would go to the police or to anyone who might listen, with bruises on her body and black circles surrounding her eyes, courtesy of her husband, it was difficult to find a sympathetic ear.

"They say, ‘Oh your husband has a temper. What you have to do is cook and make sure that the dinner is there when he comes. And just be patient.’ They send me back," she recalled Friday during a roundtable discussion on domestic violence with Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah. The beatings happened at least 40 years ago for Robinson, but she said tearfully, "It hurts every day of my life."

Friday before about a dozen women in a private home in Bedford, N.H., Lieberman unveiled a new plan to reduce domestic violence committed against women, in his first policy event of the year. His plan proposes to strengthen protections for battered victims, provide long-term housing and support while they get back on their feet, better train law enforcement, and to educate young men and boys in outreach programs.

"This is a serious national problem that hurts a lot of people around the country and we can’t take it anymore. We can’t tolerate it anymore because we’re all paying the price of it. And it is a priority for us and it will be in the White House." He said, "Strong men don’t beat their wives. Strong men take care of their women, protect their women."

The plan isn’t likely to make a huge splash in this primary race as it isn’t a controversial political issue, but it could play well with women voters. Lieberman did take the opportunity to criticize the Bush administration, though, accusing the president of remaining largely silent on domestic violence and treating the issue as an afterthought.

Tuesday, Dec. 23

Setting up housekeeping
New Hampshire is clearly a "must-win" for Lieberman, meaning he must place third in the Granite State primary. And to emphasize that point, the Liebermans moved into their new digs in North Manchester on Monday. The senator’s son Matt drove from Connecticut with boxes of pots and pans to help his father set up their temporary home. The fully furnished two-bedroom apartment, leased for a month, will serve as the family’s home base until the primary Jan. 27. Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah, will join him in January and various members of the family will stay over when they’re in town. The senator says he hopes his relocating “sends the message to New Hampshire voters that I’m really interested in listening to them and telling them why I believe I’m the Democratic candidate who is ready to be the president that they need.” But it also underscores how critical the Granite State primary is for the senator, how tight money is for the campaign and how keenly aware the campaign must be of both of those issues. Since Lieberman relaunched his campaign back in October, he’s made nearly two dozen trips to New Hampshire. Recently has he started to inch up in the polls, competing for third place with  Clark. Lieberman insists that his poll standing has nothing to do with the move, rather it was a decision that came after he opted out of Iowa. “We knew that we would focus here particularly during January. The more that we thought about it, the more we decided rather than be in a bunch of hotels, let’s put down some roots here.” The apartment complex, located in Northern Manchester, is home to not only Lieberman’s New Hampshire press secretary and deputy state chair, but also members of the Kerry and Clark campaigns.

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Lieberman steps up attacks on Dean
Tuesday, Lieberman stepped up his attacks against Dean. The senator spoke to a small group of employees at Electropac, a manufacturing company in New Hampshire, highlighting the major differences between his and the governor’s foreign and economic policies.

"In this campaign, I’m putting forward a strong, positive vision for America. And that stands in sharp contrast to what Howard Dean has offered today. He seems to believe if you are just against everything, that’s enough. Against removing Saddam Hussein. Against middle class tax cuts. Against knocking down walls of protection around the world so we can sell more products made in America, by Americans." Lieberman continued, "If I may sum up … Dr. Dean has become Dr. No."

The speech comes on the heels of former Vice President Al Gore endorsing Dean and the U.S. military capturing Saddam Hussein. Lieberman believes the two developments have permitted him to stand out in the crowded Democratic field, specifically clarifying his differences with frontrunner Dean for those who remain undecided. The campaign is banking on those voters being independents, moderate Democrats and disgruntled Republicans.

Friday, Dec. 12

It's all about the Benjamins, baby
The Lieberman campaign says they’ve raised more than $250,000 online and in checks mailed into the Virginia headquarters, since the news of Gore endorsing Dean broke. Just to give you some perspective - Dean Embed Felix Schein says that on a slow day, the former Vermont governor raises about $150,000. Wednesday was the biggest day with Lieberman receiving more than 30% of the total number of contributions received online this quarter. Donations were sent along with these quotes from supporters: …"Not the best economic time for me to make a contribution, but I'm incensed by Gore's endorsement of Dean, and the way he did it"… "[Joe] took the high road and although he already has my vote, I wanted to contribute to his campaign"…"I can't afford this contribution, but in a larger sense, I can't afford not to make it." And next week, the Senator will be out on the road raising dollars in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware, perhaps capitalizing on the Gore news.

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Making lemons out of lemonade
Oddly enough, Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Lieberman camp.  Today was yet another day of record breaking fundraising for Senator Lieberman. Tuesday, he raised more money than he had in any single day this fundraising quarter. And Wednesday, he broke that record, raising the fourth largest number of online donations of any day of the entire campaign.

“We have been raising funds online at more than 13 times our average rate,” says the campaign. Apparently since the Gore endorsement news, the campaign has raised more than 27 percent of the total number of online contributions. Most of it has been small dollar donations, averaging $71.55. 

Apparently the campaign seized on what revealed itself as an opportunity Tuesday and sent out an e-mail entitled “Golden Opportunity” asking for contributions.

The e-mail reads:  “Gore's announcement may prove to be a defining moment in our campaign. We are seeing a huge new burst of energy on my behalf, as support and
contributions pour in from all over the country in response to Gore's
announcement. Gore's announcement makes the choice in this election even more clear: Dean or Lieberman.”

The Gore news wasn’t raised today by potential voters during two campaign stops in New Hampshire, however. But the largest event was a town hall-style meeting with high school students.  The Senator did raise the issue at the event though, essentially saying endorsements and politicians won’t determine this election.

On Clyburn endorsement of Gephardt
In keeping with the theme that endorsements don’t decide elections, Lieberman dismissed Rep. Jim Clyburn endorsing Dick Gephardt. “What endorsements mean is that one person has decided to support another person. Very few people can really deliver.”

New ad airing
The Lieberman camp is airing a new TV ad in New Hampshire this week to promote his live-to-tape town hall meeting Thursday.  The event won’t be aired until Saturday evening on WMUR-TV.  The spot is entitled “Tune In” and features Lieberman speaking at a New Hampshire bowling alley. 

Here’s the script: "For years, New Hampshire primary voters have been knocking down the predictions of the pundits, because you make up your own mind. That’s why I hope you’ll tune in Saturday for my televised town meeting. Your questions…"


Campaign finance
Lieberman said today he was excited about the Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance reform. “I’m used to getting discouraging news from the Supreme Court of the United States.” The Senator took the opportunity to yet again, mention his connection with John McCain, saying he worked side by side with the Arizona senator for the law. He also took a swipe at President Bush, Dean and Kerry.

“I would only hope that this would give George Bush, Howard Dean and John Kerry
pause and force them to think again about their decisions to break out of the campaign spending limit system which does nothing but increase the influence of money in  politics.”

Tuesday, Dec. 9

On the Gore news
Lieberman said he hadn’t expected his former running mate Al Gore to endorse Dean. Monday night, just before rushing into a New York City fund-raiser with his wife, the senator said, “I was surprised, but I am now more determined than ever to continue to fight for what’s right for my party and my country and to move my party and my country forward.” To other questions yelled out by the small press corps camped outside the Manhattan building, he simply responded, “More tomorrow.”

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