Joe Lieberman lost. But he may have been saved for his independent run by the over-enthusiasm of those who wished to see him lose. My friend Michael Tomasky kicked it off with an American Prospect piece about how a big Lieberman defeat would make it impossible for him to continue — a theme echoed later by many Democrats who talked to Dan Balz of the Washington Post about the same scenario. If the idea had been that the polls were inaccurate and it was too close to call and Lieberman was very tough and oooh boy Lamont has an uphill climb, the results last night wouldn’t have seemed weirdly encouraging for Lieberman’s prospects. That’s what happens when you don’t play the lowering-expectations game.
That’s not the only thing, though. There were 280,000 votes cast in this primary — a stunningly large number. But in the presidential election of 2004, more than 1.5 million votes were cast. Independents constitute a huge portion of the Connecticut electorate. Ned Lamont has shown he can win 146,000 votes. Getting to 800,000, which is what Lieberman scored in his last election, is a different story. Meanwhile, Lieberman can count on getting 136,000 or so, which is what he received last night. No doubt Lamont will get a big polling boost from his victory, but he isn’t the frontrunner yet by any means. Which, given what we saw with the expectations game this time, may be a good thing for Lamont.