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Behind the scenes with Lieberman

MSNBC’s Dionne Scott covers U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

Saturday, Sept. 20

HEADING WEST Next week, Lieberman joins the list of Democrats who’ve traveled out to California to speak out against the recall and support Gov. Gray Davis. On Monday, he’ll campaign for Lt. Governor Bustamante in San Francisco and on Tuesday, he’ll join Davis in San Diego. Not only will the senator lend a hand to fellow Dems, but he’ll also gain some publicity in the wealthy Golden State. A campaign adviser also points out that Lieberman was “the first to embrace the ‘no on the recall, yes on Bustamante’ strategy” to ensure California gets a qualified Democrat in the governor’s seat.

TARGET PRACTICE? Other than California, the big event for Lieberman next week is the CNBC debate in New York City. The campaign says they’re looking forward to the economy-focused forum, explaining that, “We feel good about it because we’ve been talking about these issues for a while.” Yesterday, the senator challenged Clark to attend the debate. And now that Clark’s said he’ll be participating, the Lieberman camp says it’s pleased. Is Clark perhaps the next target for the Lieberman camp? The campaign isn’t saying one way or the other, just offering this little tidbit: “Our strategy won’t be dictated by other candidates. Lieberman’s got a strong record” on economic issues.

ON THE TRAIL On Sunday, Lieberman will be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for Sen. Tom Harkin’s “Hear it from the Heartland Forum” and a campaign office opening.

Friday, Sept. 19


Not a whole lot is going on in Washington today with Hurricane Isabel roaring through. Lieberman’s Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing was canceled and will be rescheduled, possibly early next week. The committee had planned to question Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, Bush’s choice for new EPA chief. Lieberman has said he’ll block a vote on Leavitt’s confirmation because the governor, under orders from the White House, refused to answer in writing the senator’s pre-hearing questions. Earlier this month, Lieberman and other Democrats sent Leavitt a letter asking for his positions on a variety of environmental issues. Lieberman says he’s outraged that Leavitt has not responded and that “it fits an all-too-familiar pattern of White House stonewalling and information control, especially on the environment and public health.”

SEE YA ON TV You can expect to see Lieberman hit the airwaves with his first ad … when and where to be announced. Part of the commercial was shot in New Hampshire this past weekend during “Operation: Libermania,” an all-out campaign blitz, including Lieberman’s first town hall meeting in the state. Media Consultant Mandy Grunwald is producing the spot.

SHAKE YOUR MONEY MAKER Wednesday evening, Fran and Saul Singer held a fund-raiser for Lieberman at their home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. I’m told by Fran Singer that it was an “excellent” evening ... with 75 people enjoying hot and cold hors’ d’oeuvres, finger cookies and cakes on the couple’s deck. Singer said she’s not sure how much money was raised, since his staff handled the green. But the suggested contribution was $500 ... ($2,000 is, of course, the max). According to Singer, a number of guests walked in a little skeptical, “some people weren’t even sure they were going to vote in the Democratic party.” But she says, “everyone walked away very impressed” after hearing Lieberman speak, because they thought he answered all the questions correctly and “he was so honest in his answers.”

Wednesday, Sept. 18

STEADY AS HE GOES I don’t care what it is … Clark buzz, Dean poll surges … the Lieberman campaign is confidently sticking to their “independent-minded Democrat” message and their Feb. 3 strategy. I dropped by the campaign headquarters, very briefly but unexpectedly yesterday, shortly after the Clark news came out and they didn’t betray any feeling about it one way or the other. As the rest of the political world was all atwitter about Clark’s announcement, Lieberman quietly campaigned in Northwestern Iowa. The senator hasn’t spent as much time in the state as a number of his opponents. And Iowa Deputy Campaign Manager Brian Meyer tells me that’s not likely to change: “The reality of our campaign is we don’t expect to win in Iowa, but we’re trying to beat expectations.” Those expectations aren’t necessarily that high either with conventional wisdom saying Gephardt has to win Iowa given that he hails from next-door neighbor Missouri. If Iowans aren’t more familiar (and more enamored) with him than other candidates from farther away, it doesn’t bode well for Gephardt.

That said, Meyer says the Lieberman campaign doesn’t have the same amount of resources (people, offices) on the ground in Iowa as most of the other candidates. “Everybody knows we’ve got a Feb. 3 strategy. … We’re not Howard Dean. We’re not going to the same county five times.” Lieberman expects to do well on Feb. 3 when South Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Delaware hold their primaries.

There had been some press in Iowa suggesting that Lieberman was ignoring the state and folks weren’t taking too kindly to that. But Meyers says that’s definitely not the case. In fact, he says the campaign is “stepping up its effort all across Iowa,” and part of that includes this Sunday. That’s when the campaign plans to open an office in the state’s second largest city, Cedar Rapids. That office will serve as Lieberman’s “hub for regional operations” in the northeast.

TODAY ON THE TRAIL D.C. appearances canceled because of hurricane Isabel.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

KEEPIN’ IT UNDER WRAPS? The Lieberman campaign offered no response to Tuesday’s news that Gen. Wesley Clark plans to enter the presidential race. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a political pundit to figure out that the four-star general potentially hurts a number of campaigns, including Dean’s, Kerry’s and Lieberman’s. For one thing, Clark is yet another addition to an already crowded field, making it even harder for candidates to distinguish themselves from one another. Secondly, probably most importantly, he comes to the table as a war hero with considerable foreign policy experience. … and he’s been critical of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. That means he could not only attract the anti-war, livid-with-Bush Dems, but also those voters who place national defense high on their list of priorities. A central part of Lieberman’s message has been that he’s strong on national defense. So say you’re a Democrat who opposed the war, but you’d prefer a candidate who has considerable foreign policy experience? You get the picture. That said … the Lieberman camp is hardly made up of a bunch of newbies. To the contrary, many have worked on a number of national campaigns. And the senator himself has been known to run an astute and clever campaign. Early in his career, he deftly defeated an imperious incumbent. So you have to think the campaign will be watching how Clark’s run resonates … and how it will affect their own.


Joe Lieberman and John Kerry attended Yale University (undergrad) together (Kerry was a year behind Lieberman). Lieberman’s first date with his wife, Hadassah, was on Easter Sunday, he helped her move new furniture into her home


Before the Clark news, Lieberman supporters told me they knew of a number of people who were still undecided. Still, many aren’t convinced the news will make a significant difference for Lieberman … in terms of money or the primary race. Endorser Katrina Swett says Clark may very well create a buzz with his announcement, but he’ll find that that moment will be “his high point.” After that, Swett says, Clark, “like all the others, will have to start answering questions … will have to show that he has a command of the issues, will have to face the slings and arrows of his opponents.” And she’s not convinced he’ll survive, saying, “The anticipation of life is often more exciting than the real thing.” Lieberman donor Jeffrey Kahan says, of course, that Clark’s run will dilute the money pool, but he adds (after asking “isn’t Clark a candy bar?”) — “Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have more experience than Clark… and neither one of them has ever been elected to public office.” Donor Thomas Kalil agrees that Clark will be credible on national defense, but says, at the end of the day, the public is “concerned about stimulating economic growth and job creation … and they’ll be looking for a candidate who has a clear strategy and a clear plan. Joe Lieberman is the only candidate who does.”


Wednesday evening, Saul and Fran Singer of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., will host a reception for the senator in their home at $500 a pop. Saul Singer says he, his wife and a group of other co-sponsors sent out about 600 invitations to friends, co-workers, golf buddies, business associates, fellow club members. … He doesn’t know any of their party affiliations. Between 60 and 80 people are expected to attend. Singer makes a point to say he and his wife don’t belong to the Democratic or Republican Party. “I just think the best people should run and right now I do think Joe Lieberman is the best man.”

TODAY ON THE TRAIL All Iowa all the time. Day starts in Le Mars at a meeting with activists at a local caf. Then it’s “Joe’s Jobs Tour” at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake and a library gathering in Holstein.

Thursday, September 11


Another week, another poll… and yet another surge by Dr. Dean, this time in Iowa. This could mean good news for the Lieberman campaign, because it puts “I-must-have-Iowa-or-I’m-out” Gephardt in lesser standing, but the latest poll also shows Edwards edging Lieberman out of fourth place. Nevertheless, the campaign responded with their standard line (and with boredom, I might add), ”It’s too early… polls are snapshots in time… people are still only beginning to focus” on the presidential race.”

COMMEMORATING SEPT. 11 Thursday, Lieberman visited a fire station in Miami in commemoration of Sept. 11. The senator presented a flag that had flown over the nation’s capital to the fire chief to place outside the station and briefly spoke to firefighters about the attacks.


Lieberman heads to the Granite State on Sunday for an all-out campaign extravaganza. The entire Lieberman clan — his wife Hadassah Lieberman, his son Matt, daughter Rebecca, mother Marcia and hundreds of volunteers will join, as he traipses across the state from Manchester to Concord to Nashua, knocking door to door and attending a town hall meeting and festival. And it’s a good thing too, given the Dean buzz and the latest state polls. According to an official in the New Hampshire Democratic Party, that kind of groundwork is important for Lieberman — the “common criticism” is the senator hasn’t caught on yet because the campaign is doing “really gimmicky things.” Last month, they held a nine-day contest called “See Joe’s Car & Go See Nomar.” Residents who spotted one of the so-called “JoeMobiles” (two cars draped in Lieberman banners) could win tickets to see Boston Red Sox player Nomar Garciaparra in a Red Sox-White Sox game, if Lieberman drew their name. Also according to the official — when folks are having drinks and speculating about who’s going to drop out of the race, the candidates named are often Lieberman and Gephardt. Still, the official adds, “Lieberman is down, but I don’t think he’s out.”

Wednesday, September 10


Lieberman’s recent attacks on Dean’s Israel statements appear to have paid off, in some respects. Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi and several Jewish lawmakers are circulating a letter, according to Reuters, saying “This is not a time to be sending mixed messages... On the contrary, in these difficult times we must reaffirm our unyielding commitment to Israel’s survival and raise our voices against all forms of terrorism and incitement.” And on CNN, Dean himself expressed regret for talking about taking an even-handed approach in the conflict.

BEST-LAID PLANS? So… what would the senator do to achieve peace in the region? According to an aide, Lieberman’s plan would include reaffirming the strong relationship the U.S. has with Israel, requiring the Palestinians to pick responsible leadership to rein in the terrorist groups, understanding and appreciating the Palestinians’ aspirations for statehood, and finally, unlike President Bush, committing to constant attention and engagement in the region. That said, the aide says, “Lieberman doesn’t think there’s any easy answer, any silver bullet” to achieving peace, but a president must have plans that are clear and consistent and be vocal on the principles the U.S. stands for. Dean’s statements, the aide adds (in a final swipe), “suggest he doesn’t have a clear understanding of those principles.”

Tuesday, September 9

DEAN STALK… From all indications, Senator Lieberman is on a manhunt… for Dr. Dean. During last night’s debate, he gave a repeat performance of New Mexico’s debate and took the former governor to task, yet again. And afterwards, in the spin room, he lashed out at the Vermont candidate. Why? In a nutshell — “Governor Dean is a major candidate and he has to be held accountable for what he has to say,” Lieberman said. “That’s why I challenged him. He’s done a lot of flip-flopping.” According to the senator… flip-flopping on trade and on the Middle East.

And while Dean may have been the main target, Lieberman also made a point of hitting Kerry and Gephardt (as well as Dean) for saying they wouldn’t support sending more American troops to Iraq. The senator says in order to protect the troops there, the U.S. must send reinforcements now, because an international force would likely be delayed for another four to six months.


Lieberman showed a noticeable surge of energy at one point during the debate… when one of the panelists asked him whether he’d put race on the front burner as president. Lieberman said… with volume and fervor… that he planned to talk about race until the American dream had been realized for African-Americans, adding, “This is from my heart. This will define my presidency.” Lieberman told his newly named Deputy Campaign Director Jonathan Sallet that he just got worked up over the issue.

Monday, September 8

THAT’S MY STORY AND I’M STICKIN’ TO IT Lieberman is sticking to the same game plan for tomorrow’s Congressional Black Caucus debate. He says “I’ve worked very hard at not changing my message to suit the audience I’m in. You know, we all know how to get applause. But wanting to be president is all about saying what you believe is right for your country’s future, regardless of whether it’s politically controversial or not.” And as far as Dean goes, an aide said, “essentially, it now feels as if the race has come down to Dean and fill-in-the-blank… the question is no longer is he viable? It’s who’s going to run against him?” And the Lieberman campaign believes they have the most compelling case to serve as an alternative to Dean. So we’ll see if Lieberman throws another fast one at the former Vermont governor tomorrow night. The senator also plans to talk about the Civil Rights movement during the debate... what it means today, and how President Bush has “failed to adequately enforce civil rights laws, opposed affirmative action programs and is now cutting the guts out of a whole series of governmental programs that help people up into the middle class.”

POLLS, SCHMOLLS The latest Time/CNN and Zogby polls may show Lieberman behind Dean and/or Kerry, but the campaign insists it’s still too early to put much faith in those numbers. Lieberman says, “The polls go up and down. I mean, there was one last week that showed me way ahead. Even when I’m ahead in the polls, I have to say this is clearly a race that has not gelled. I plan to go ahead with a real sense of purpose and of confidence.”

Sunday, September 7


After Bush’s speech, Lieberman issued the following response: “Since February, I’ve been saying that in order to create a stable, self-sufficient, and democratic post-war Iraq, we need concrete plans to build an international coalition, appoint an international administrator, and reserve Iraqi oil for the Iraqi people. What we heard tonight, four months after the end of major hostilities, was a goal — not a plan. The people of America deserve a real plan for winning the peace in Iraq, for safeguarding American troops until they come home and for building international support that will ease the burden on our men and women in uniform.”


Over the weekend, Lieberman picked up some unlikely (or likely, depending on who you talk to) support. The Republican National Committee seconded the senator’s criticism of Dean’s free trade proposal during the debate last week. The GOP listed a number of examples in which Dean has flip-flopped, including during the debate. According to the RNC, Dean told the Des Moines Register back in July that trade agreements should only be made with countries that have the same labor and environmental standards as the U.S. But during the debate, he said those countries should meet international standards (which are less stringent). This was Lieberman’s exact attack on Dean... not sure he really wants the GOP in his corner though.

Friday, September 5


The campaign was pleased with the press received on Lieberman’s debate performance. Communications Director Jonathan Sallet said they “thought he did great. He demonstrated why he’s an independent-minded Democrat” who has the courage to say what he believes and what he believes is best for the party. As for Lieberman’s attack on Dean’s free trade plan (the former Vermont governor proposed the U.S. only enter trade agreements with countries that share its labor, environmental and human rights standards) — Sallet said the move was definitely not orchestrated, adding that it’s important to have a substantive discussion on the issues. He says Dean was proposing a trade policy that would cost America trillions in trade dollars and millions of jobs, Lieberman correctly pointed that out, and speaking about these issues in this type of forum is “really important in deciding the future of the country.”

Thursday, September 4

FIZZLED OUT? Lieberman’s line of the night — “If that ever happened, I’d say the Bush recession would be followed by the Dean depression” — appears to have garnered more disdain than piqued interest. Lieberman accused Dean of pushing labor standards on free trade partners that would end up costing the U.S. millions of jobs and trade dollars. And the audience clearly reacted to the “Dean depression” phrase... with surprise. But it looks like the sharp little barb fell flat, in part I’m sure, because it was too complicated to understand. Not to mention, throughout the debate, Lieberman received less applause than any of the other candidates. Even when the audience did clap for him, it was tepid. After the forum, at the New Mexico Democrats Debate Watch Party, a number of the audience members told me Lieberman really emerged as the loser in the debate. The frequent complaint? Lieberman’s attack on Dean. The campaign clearly tried to gain some traction from the attack, by sending out a Rapid Response statement citing evidence of Dean’s costly trade policy. But no dice. An organizer in Governor Bill Richardson’s education campaign summed the night up this way, “The big winner tonight was Dick Gephardt. He’s been trailing in the polls and doesn’t really have a whole lot to lose. He just came out swinging. And the big loser of the night was Lieberman. He sort of got bogged down in fighting Howard Dean.” And this from another Albuquerque resident — “Lieberman just had no energy, no passion. And that attack on Dean was just off… That wasn’t the tone of the debate. It’s too early for that.” At the party, Dean hung out for a little bit, chatting with people… Kerry signed autographs for a small mob of people… Graham blended in with the partygoers… and I’m told Gephardt and Edwards walked through. Lieberman made a quick appearance himself, then quickly disappeared. (He did have a red-eye flight to take back to the East Coast.) Incidentally, one person I spoke with said he liked Lieberman the best… but he started off the conversation saying “I think the people here are wasting their time. I think unfortunately, Hillary Clinton’s gonna get the nomination.” And he ended the conversation saying Lieberman “probably has the best message right now… out of the Democrats. But I don’t think he has a very good message at all.”

EARLIER THAT DAY... Lieberman paid a visit to a local Mexican coffee shop, Barelas. In addition to shaking hands with the patrons sitting down to eat lunch and a number of local activists who stopped in, he had lunch with six of the Texas lawmakers who ran away from the Lone Star state to thwart a redistricting vote lead by the Republicans. Lieberman called the senators heroes for fighting the “Republican power grab.” (It’s kind of the lefty side Lieberman shows in small gatherings, but that doesn’t necessarily come through in larger forums, like the debate.)

Wednesday, September 3


Money, money, money… MONEY. (Dramatic introduction for a couple of events I had absolutely no access to…) Today, Lieberman attended fundraisers in Denver. He’ll also be attending some fundraisers in New Mexico. When asked how the fundraising is going, the campaign says, “The third quarter is traditionally the toughest… but we’ll have to wait and see what the final tally is. The last go-around, 80 percent of our money was raised in the last 10 days. We’re going to wait and see before we talk about it.”

CARPE DIEM Today, Lieberman is attempting to cash in on the moment. One day before the debate sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, he released an immigration reform agenda. The Senator says immigration has been a long-time interest of his and now, he’s taking the policy a little bit further. And “yes, it seemed appropriate to release the plan now on the eve of the debate” sponsored by the Hispanic Caucus. The plan, he says, was “drawn from the work of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the issue is of particular concern to the Hispanic community.” His plan consists of seven points, including providing undocumented immigrants who have lived and worked in the U.S. for five years the opportunity to apply for permanent citizenship; reducing the flow of illegal immigration by providing temporary work visas and funneling workers to areas of the country where unskilled and semi-skilled labor is needed; and protecting the rights of undocumented workers by ensuring them counsel, notifying detainees of charges against them quickly, and regularly inspecting detention conditions.

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID THIS PAST SUMMER, BUT… If some old-time political folks I talked to know their stuff, the campaign is on the right track… at least in part. The general consensus is that Lieberman needs to play himself off of Dean. As former Clinton-Gore advisor Elaine Kamarck put it, “Lieberman has to become the un-Dean.” But the dilemma is — that’s been his strategy through the summer, and it hasn’t gotten any traction and no one seems to know why. Kamarck offered this: “He doesn’t have any natural hooks into the party” base, such as environmentalists or the black community. Still, a Connecticut official who’s known Lieberman for a long time said the likely way the senator will shine is if Dean screws up during the debate, maybe by losing his temper. He said Lieberman may be tempted to make a splash, but “you can’t do contortions to sell yourself” particularly against a brand-new product “like Britney Spears or new chewing gum” or Howard Dean. Gore’s former campaign manager Donna Brazile added this: no matter which candidate you’re talking about, “it’s make or break time for tomorrow night. If these candidates are made of anything, now’s the time to shine.” Besides Dean, that is. She says he speaks a language that Democratic activists understand. And the other candidates have to find a way to speak that language without insulting the former Vermont governor.

Tuesday, September 2


As promised, Lieberman unveiled his new health care plan today. If part of the intent behind today’s event was to take some wind out of Kerry’s grand announcement sails, it didn’t quite make that kind of splash, although there were a number of media people there. The Senator outlined an initiative with various components, including health insurance for all children, expanding coverage to the uninsured and guaranteeing care for those who lose their jobs, at a cost he said is less per person than the plans put forth by the other Democratic candidates over 10 years. A young female doctor with Harvard and Duke credentials was the primary author of the health plan. The campaign tapped a number of health care providers who weren’t endorsers to come up with the initiative. They asked the groups what programs they’d had trouble trying to implement, then went from there.


The Senator left for Denver tonight and will hold a couple of fundraisers in the city. In the meantime and in between time, he’ll be preparing for the big debate in New Mexico. Press Secretary Jano Cabrera was reluctant to let any of their debate plans and strategy out, but said they’ve set aside significant prep time for the forum. They’ve discussed a number of different possible questions, their different goals in the debate and the different ways to practice and accomplish those goals. Top aides Cabrera, Communications Director Jonathan Sallet, media buyer Mandy Grunwald and pollster Mark Penn will be travelling with Lieberman to New Mexico.

Monday, September 1


Lieberman is hoping to finally make his big splash in the laying-out-policy department. Tuesday morning, he’s unveiling his national health care plan in Silver Spring, Maryland, and he promises it will provide coverage for a significant number of people… and he’s proud, he says, because, “it will do more for less.” Today, during his campaign sprint in Iowa, he gave potential supporters a little preview.

“It will insure more people and will do it at a lower cost per person than any of the plans put forward by the other Democratic candidates yet.” The plan’s basic goal is to provide health coverage for every child and step-by-step for every single adult. To start, the Lieberman camp estimates that their program will cover 31 million of the 41 million uninsured people. How’s he going to pay for it? Stay tuned for tomorrow, Lieberman said.

NO ONE CAN EAT JUST ONE… Cheetos, Ruffles, Wonder Bread sandwiches with luncheon meat… the refreshments at an Iowan Lieberman reception… and all apart of a definite homey feel to the Senator’s Labor Day campaign swing through Davenport, Clinton and Dubuque, Iowa. The Davenport event was held at a home that sat next door to two churches, across the street from another, and off a wide two-lane road. The Clinton reception was held in the Clinton Democratic Headquarters — a small room that looked a lot like the space for a Boy Scout den meeting. About 20 people showed up for both, including teachers, college students, blue and white collar workers. And in Davenport, the group was pretty diverse (yes, there are Black people in Iowa). After Lieberman gave his remarks, the response from a number of people was positive, but those same people said they still were undecided. Two men told me Lieberman wasn’t necessarily as detailed as they would have liked. Said one: “I think Joe Lieberman’s got the right idea about things. He’s pretty vague about things though. He needs to clarify his stance more. And it makes me a little nervous how he does one thing in Washington and says another thing here. But we’ll see, time will tell.”

Friday, August 29

AS GOES DELAWARE, SO GOES THE COUNTRY? We’ll see… Lieberman was in the First State today and picked up three endorsements from state leaders, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, Lieutenant Governor John Carney and State Treasure John Markell. Carper is the first senator to endorse a presidential candidate not from his home state (of course, we all know Delaware Senator Joe Biden cleared the way, by deciding not to run.) A campaign aide tells me Carper controls the Democratic party machine in Delaware, so his endorsement of Lieberman is nothing to sniff at. Carper’s also been named the State Chair for the campaign. And what about tiny little Delaware with its three electoral votes? The campaign says this: “We think it’s a big deal because Delaware is a bellwether state. They have a knack for picking winners.” And yes, the state has, in fact, picked all the presidential victors from 1948 to 1996.



Nothing scheduled

Sunday 8/31:

CBS’s “Face the Nation”

2:15 p.m. Manchester, New Hampshire - roundtable discussion with uninsured residents

3:30 p.m Manchester, N.H. - Red Sox-Yankees game and picks winner of “See Joe’s Car & Go See Nomar” contest

5:30 p.m. Contoocook, NH - Hopkins Town Fair

Monday 9/1:

11 a.m. Davenport, IA reception

12:20 p.m. Davenport, IA - Hospital Tour, holds presser at Genesis Medical Center

2 p.m. Clinton, IA - reception at Clinton County Democratic HQ

4:30 p.m. Dubuque, IA - reception at Iowan home

Tuesday: Back to D.C.

11 a.m Unveils Health Care Plan at Broad Acres Elementary School

Thursday, August 28


The Lieberman campaign gave their standard response to reports that HRC may be considering running —“We don’t comment on potential candidacies, but we welcome anyone who cares to join.” But they also added this: “Hillary has said all along that she isn’t interested in running for President, other than that, we refer you to Hillary Clinton’s office.”


Lieberman used Thursday to plug his commitment to civil rights and the African-American community, speaking to students at the historically black school, Howard University. He talked to a political science class about his participation in the March on Washington, 40 years ago. And told them the march had transformed the country and allowed him to believe that he’ll be “judged by the quality of my candidacy, not the content of my worship” in this presidential race.

Back in 1995, Lieberman spoke out against affirmative action on the Senate floor. Black leaders raised the issue during his vice presidential run. But the rancor did die once some other black leaders jumped in on Lieberman’s behalf. I haven’t heard the issue raised much during this campaign, but I think the 1995 speech may be the driving force behind the campaign’s and the candidate’s insistence on mentioning Lieberman’s participation in the March on Washington, whenever South Carolina and blacks come up in conversation.

Wednesday, August 27


Despite Dean’s surge in the latest New Hampshire poll and $10.3 million fundraising feat, the Lieberman camp appears to be confidently, almost stubbornly unmoved. The Senator has positioned himself as the “independent-minded Democrat”… strong on national defense and foreign policy, fiscally conservative, yet progressive on environmental and most social issues. Take a look…

NOT SHAKEN, NOR STIRRED… When it comes to the Zogby New Hampshire poll, Press Secretary Jano Cabrera basically dismissed its importance, saying “At this point in time, people aren’t even focused on their Labor Day plans, let alone who they want to vote for… it’s too early.” And Dean’s impressive fundraising this quarter? National Finance Chair and Senior Policy Advisor Elliot Gerson says “it’s not affecting us in any direct sense,” their strategy hasn’t changed because of it, but it can be used as further incentive for their fundraisers.

GAS ATTACK In South Carolina Wednesday, Lieberman talked energy and economy, blaming Bush for the current state of both. He suggested there were some sort of shenanigans behind the spike in gas prices, saying “These circumstances when the price of gas goes up so much really smells. And yet if you do nothing, the oil industry feels that there’s no cop on the beat. And they’ll pretty much take advantage of the consumer.” He pointed out Bush’s close ties with the oil industry, saying “in this Bush White House, oil is thicker than water.”

Tuesday, August 26


Tuesday, Lieberman spoke at the Communications Workers of America convention in Chicago. The last union event he attended in the city, he didn’t exactly get the warmest reception. At the AFL-CIO presidential forum earlier this month, he was booed for speaking of his support for a school voucher pilot program. But today, the audience applauded him a number of times, albeit politely. And he did manage to get a few laughs. Afterwards, Lieberman said he felt good about the event. But he did say he’s had better union meetings, explaining “I’ve got a responsibility to say what I think is best for the future of our country. You can’t run for commander-in-chief, for president of United States as if it were a popularity contest. It’s a contest to determine who’s able to restore prosperity and security to the American people. Not to get the most applause.”

And he’s definitely hammering home the Clinton-Gore connection. He mentioned the duo a number of times, saying they had the right idea — forming a campaign that runs from the center out, that doesn’t shut anybody out, “but makes enough people comfortable who aren’t Democrats.”


It’s off to South Carolina on Wednesday. And given the recent spike in gas prices there (and across the country), the campaign has added an energy event to Lieberman’s schedule. The Senator will hold a press conference at White’s Exxon at 12:10 p.m., ET. That will push back his meet-and-greet with local activists at Ellis restaurant to 12:45p.m. and his “Joe’s Job Tour” visit to a textile plant, Mt. Vernon Mills Incorporated’s Ark Wright Plant, until 2:15 p.m.

As for the possibility of South Carolinians holding Lieberman’s religion against him — Press Secretary Jano Cabrera says “a lot of people respect that he’s a man of faith… regardless of the particulars, that’s something that resonates” with people in the state.

What about distinguishing himself in the Palmetto State when so many candidates are digging their heels in there? Cabrera says Lieberman’s at an advantage, in part, because he has support from African Americans that is head-and-shoulders above the other candidates. And he attended the 1963 March on Washington (they never fail to mention that). S.C. State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter says Edwards, Sharpton and Gephardt also can claim support from strong segments of the black community. Lieberman also plans to address issues that are important to the state — specifically, the economy and national security.


If retired army general and former NATO Commander Clark does decide to jump in, he could very well trump Lieberman on the “strong on national security” claim, given his military and war experience. Plus — he could excite the Democratic base because he was very critical of the war in Iraq.

Monday, August 25


Lieberman was in Connecticut on Monday. He spoke at a rally, supporting union workers at Yale University (his old stomping ground) who are threatening to strike Wednesday if they do not get new contracts. Afterwards, he met with the Connecticut Manufacturing Alliance in a closed-door meeting. At campaign headquarters, I’m told, it was relatively quiet since the events in Connecticut were organized by Lieberman’s Senate office.

Tuesday afternoon, Lieberman will speak at the CWA Convention in Chicago. The rest of the afternoon, it’s call time for the Senator. That evening, he’ll do some fundraising in suburban Chicago.


Wednesday, Lieberman’s off to South Carolina (a meet-and-greet in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, then a jobs tour event at a manufacturing plant). I talked to a few members of the Democratic Party in South Carolina and they believe Lieberman thinks he has a very good chance there.

South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Joe Erwin says he’s attended a number of events with the Senator and “he’s been received extremely well.” (emphasis on “extremely”). He says people nod their heads in agreement when he talks, they’re comfortable around him and when he speaks, “it seems to be heartfelt.” Erwin believes Lieberman’s religious faith is greatly appreciated and admired in a state that is so fundamentally religious. And even though Lieberman’s Jewish and South Carolina is largely Christian Conservative, Erwin says religion hasn’t been a hindrance for him, but a plus.

But another Democratic leader I spoke with respectfully disagrees. South Carolina State Representative and DNC member Gilda Cobb-Hunter says people publicly will say Lieberman’s religion is not an issue, but behind closed doors and the curtains at the polls, it may very well be different. She says she worries that prejudice is the “800-pound elephant in the room” and no one wants to raise the issue, but it is one. “I know... JFK was Catholic,” she says. “I know all that, but this is South Carolina. We just got around to taking the Confederate flag off a pole” at the state house.

Either way, the Democratic Party leaders in South Carolina I spoke to, including Cobb-Hunter and Erwin, believe it’s too early to tell which candidate will win in their state.

MSNBC’s Dionne Scott is embedded with the presidential campaign of Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.