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Clinton’s involvement, according to Democrats familiar with his thinking, was something he was hoping to avoid, but it also highlights the odd dynamics at play in national Democratic politics. “Clinton’s presence in Waterbury is less about Lieberman, and more about Hillary’s future and the future of the Clintonian wing of the Democratic Party,” says a Democrat political consultant in Washington, who has worked for Clinton in the past.
In Clinton’s view, the Howard Dean, MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, and My DD activists have served a useful purpose within the party, but have overplayed their hand and now have put the party on a path that could take it over a cliff in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
“If Joe Lieberman wins the primary, and wins by a decent margin, then it’s another loss for the far left activists of the party who have only been successful in placing one of their own in charge of the party, and that’s Howard Dean,” says the consultant. “The far left has staked its future to a large degree on beating Lieberman. If they lose that claim, then it makes it a bit easier for the moderates in the party to reassert some control.”
And it’s Clinton who wants the control. While he has been helpful to the Democrat party, his activities for the Democrats have been limited since Dean took over as DNC chairman. The relationship between Dean and Clinton’s wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been rocky at best.
Clinton’s arrival in Waterbury surprised some Democrat observers, particularly since Senator Clinton had announced that she would take no position on the race. But according to the Democrat consultants, that was all part of the Clinton plan.
“The Clintons know that if Joe wins, the MoveOn types are going to turn their guns on another traditional Democrat and they think that traditional Democrat will be Hillary, and they don’t need to give those nuts any more ammunition,” says the Democrat consultant.
Other national Democrats with bigger aspirations have come out in support of Lieberman, including presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden. But Hillary has had the rockiest relationship with the far-left crowd.
In Clinton’s view, the organizations that have elevated anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan and law-enforcement assaulter Rep. Cynthia McKinney as the faces of the Democrat party make it increasingly difficult to attract moderate and undecided voters, particularly in general elections. “A lot of us think that the Lieberman race is going to be a watershed for Democrats. That’s why you see so much energy around it,” says a Democrat activist in New York.
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