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At the Races: Lieberman lookback

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A politician like Joseph I. Lieberman probably couldn’t exist in this era of rigid political tribalism.

The Connecticut Democrat-turned-independent, who died Wednesday at age 82, leaves a complicated legacy.

Lieberman was Connecticut’s crusading attorney general, fighting for consumers and taking down polluters, when he first ran for Senate in 1988. He beat Lowell P. Weicker Jr., one of the last New England Republican moderates.

Throughout his career, Lieberman was a reliable vote for liberal causes such as gay rights and measures to address climate change. But he was also a foreign policy hawk with a moralistic streak, delivering one of the most scathing takedowns of President Bill Clinton during Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial.

Those complexities didn’t hamper Lieberman’s political career: He came within a whisker of becoming the vice president on a ticket with Democrat Al Gore in 2000. Six years later, he won a tough reelection fight by running as an independent in the face of mounting anger over the Iraq War, which Lieberman championed. 

Lieberman almost wound up on another presidential ticket, led by a Republican this time, but his friend John McCain wound up selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

By the time Lieberman left the Senate in 2013, he was a man without a country. Connecticut had moved to the left and he was unlikely to win a fifth term. Liberals remained angry at him for supporting the war; for blasting Democratic nominee Barack Obama, a fellow senator, in a speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention; and for scuttling the public option in Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, although he voted for the final bill.

While Democrats spurned him, it’s hard to imagine Lieberman finding a home in today’s GOP. His support for abortion rights, his role in repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and, perhaps most damning, an unyielding hawkishness would have likely doomed him with the Republican base rallying to Donald Trump’s calls to settle with Vladimir Putin over Ukraine and put “America First.”

Perhaps that’s why Lieberman tied himself to the No Labels movement and was involved in drafting a third-party, bipartisan presidential ticket.

In his 2011 retirement speech, Lieberman noted that he did “not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes … because I have always thought my first responsibility is not to serve a political party but to serve my constituents, my state and my country and then to work across party lines to make sure good things get done for them.”

Starting gate

Garden State shake-up: Tammy Murphy, New Jersey’s first lady, dropped her Senate bid on Sunday, the day before candidates had to file to be on the June 4 primary ballot. Murphy’s decision followed an announcement from indicted Sen. Bob Menendez that he also would not be on the primary ballot, although he left open the possibility of an independent run. Both announcements clear the way for Rep. Andy Kim to win the Democratic nomination, which was cheered by the grassroots groups that have helped propel his campaign. 

Departure gate: Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, who previously said he wouldn’t run for reelection, now plans to quit Congress next month, further narrowing the GOP majority. New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, meanwhile, decided six terms is enough and won’t run again this year.

Prez watch: Democrats are hoping that President Joe Biden’s slow-and-steady pace to campaigning will overtake Trump, and the Biden campaign’s efforts to expand the electoral map put the president and vice president in North Carolina this week, Editor-at-Large John T. Bennett writes. Bennett also previews Thursday night’s gathering in New York’s Radio City Music Hall that includes Biden, Obama and Clinton as well as Stephen Colbert, Queen Latifah and Lizzo.

ICYMI

Next round: The DCCC has released its new slate of Red to Blue candidates. Making the list were California’s Derek Tran, who is seeking to unseat Rep. Michelle Steel, and Dave Min, who is running for an open seat; New Jersey’s Sue Altman, who is challenging Rep. Tom Kean Jr.; and Laura Gillen, who is facing New York Rep. Anthony D’Esposito. The program provides candidates in competitive districts with additional access to DCCC strategy, resources and training. These four join a list of 17 announced earlier.

#MDSEN: Rep. David Trone, who is running for Senate, apologized after he used a racial slur during a House budget hearing last week, telling The Washington Post that he meant to use the word “bugaboo” and “misspoke and mistakenly used a phrase that is offensive.” Trone is running against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who is Black, in the Democratic primary for the open seat. Alsobrooks picked up endorsements from Congressional Black Caucus members Barbara Lee, Gregory Meeks, Joyce Beatty, Yvette D. Clarke and Jasmine Crockett, as well as Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who passed on his own Senate bid, earlier this week. 

SC01: A panel of three federal judges in South Carolina on Thursday ordered the state to use its existing congressional map this year, our colleague Michael Macagnone reports. The decision comes despite a ruling last year that found the map was likely unconstitutional.

Campaign launch: Not wasting any time after Kuster’s retirement announcement, Colin Van Ostern, a former member of New Hampshire’s Executive Council and the Democratic nominee for governor in 2016, announced he was running for the 2nd District on Thursday. Van Ostern told CQ Roll Call that his campaign would focus on “protecting the full range of reproductive rights” and cutting household costs. 

Trading races: Nikki Snyder, a member of the Michigan Board of Education, said she’d run for the open 8th District seat now held by retiring Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee rather than continue her Senate campaign. “I am the only Republican elected official with name ID that is running in this seat. I am ready and qualified to win and Michiganders are ready for a big win,” she said in a statement. 

Eye on ’28: In This Together, a national PAC launched earlier this year by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, announced its first endorsements. Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Jon Tester of Montana are among the Democrats receiving the governor’s support.

Spending woes: Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, who’s running for governor, didn’t vote early Saturday morning on a spending package to fund parts of the federal government through September, having been in his home state for a fundraiser on Friday evening. Braun’s opponents in the governor’s race criticized his absence, with businessman Eric Doden’s campaign releasing a spot questioning whether Braun was “sleeping on the job.” Braun’s campaign told the Indianapolis Star that Braun believed the vote would happen on Saturday, based on conversations with other members and leadership staff, so he had planned to fly back Saturday morning. 

Ballot watch: A judge in Georgia ruled the state Republican Party’s first vice chairman, a conservative talk show host who called the 2020 presidential election fraudulent, voted illegally nine times while serving probation for felony check forgery, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. 

Endorsement watch: Trump endorsed Austin Theriault, a Republican running in Maine’s 2nd District. 

Exclusive: Democrats Serve PAC announced endorsements of four House candidates, shared first with CQ Roll Call. The candidates are Trygve Hammer for North Dakota’s at-large seat, Adam Hollier in Michigan’s 13th District, Carol Murphy in New Jersey’s 3rd District and Mike O’Brien in Pennsylvania’s 10th District.

What we’re reading

Provincial life: Our colleague Ariel Cohen reports from France that former Rep. Jim McDermott is living out some of the policies he advocated during his 30-year career on Capitol Hill from a village outside of Bordeaux, where he’s taken up goat farming and bought a share of a small winery. 

Talking about an epidemic: With the toll of the fentanyl overdose crisis growing every day, Bloomberg spoke to voters in swing states that have been hit especially hard by the crisis. “We are a superhighway in Arizona, with a crazy amount of pills coming through,” one voter told the outlet. “Our kids are not overdosing. They’re being poisoned.” 

Lobbying mom and dad: The Wall Street Journal looks at the intense lobbying effort waged by some avid TikTok users, who happen to be the tween and teen kids of members of Congress.

Dark-money journalism: It looks like a fact-based and objective news site, but Cardinal & Pine is part of the Courier Newsroom, a chain of publications funded by liberal groups to promote an agenda. Although the North Carolina-based organization is staffed by journalists, NOTUS found that, in many cases, Democratic political operatives call the shots. Courier Newsroom received $250,000 in funding from Planned Parenthood between June 2021 and June 2022 while it was producing content about abortion and the upcoming elections, according to NOTUS. 

Violations alleged: The former chair of the FEC has filed a complaint against Rep. Kevin Kiley, accusing the California Republican of violating campaign finance laws in support of a tough-on-crime ballot measure, the Los Angeles Times reports. A spokesperson for Kiley dismissed the allegations as “frivolous” and “false.”

Bowman walks it back: About six weeks after Hamas attacked Israel, Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York dismissed as propaganda reports that Israeli women were raped. “There’s still no evidence of beheaded babies or raped women. But they still keep using that lie [for] propaganda,” the New York Democrat said at a pro-Palestinian rally on Nov. 17. But after Politico reported on the congressman’s comments, which were contained in a TikTok post reviewed by the news outlet, he issued a statement acknowledging that authorities have confirmed Hamas committed sexual violence.

History tells the story: Bernie Moreno, the Republican nominee in Ohio’s hotly contested Senate race, has long said his family fled socialist Colombia and settled in the United States. But The Guardian examined Moreno’s claim and found that the dates don’t add up. Moreno was born in 1967, when “Colombia was nine years into the 16-year period of National Front government, in which conservative and liberal parties alternated being in power as a way to avoid violence between the two factions,” the newspaper found. “Furthermore, the first leftwing Colombian government in modern times is the current one, headed by Gustavo Petro and in power since 2022.”

COVID-19 makes a campaign appearance: The early days of the coronavirus pandemic have largely gone unmentioned during the presidential campaign — until now. In recent weeks, Politico reports, Biden and the Democrats have begun revisiting that painful time by posing that age-old question: Are you better now than you were four years ago?

The count: 66 percent

That’s the share of Democrats nationwide who said the word “fearful” described extremely or somewhat well how they’d feel about another Trump presidency, compared with only 49 percent of Republicans saying the same about another Biden term, according to an AP-NORC poll taken March 21-25. But is fear the best motivator? The poll found 54 percent of Republicans said “excited” described how they’d feel about another Trump term very or extremely well, compared with only 40 percent of Democrats who said the same thing about a Biden reelection. Among all adults, 21 percent were extremely or very excited about a second Biden term, compared with 25 percent who felt that way about another Trump term.

Nathan’s notes

Even with Biden’s low polling numbers, Democrats could take back control of the House, but that would require a virtual sweep of the Toss-up races, Nathan writes.

Key race: #VA05

Candidates: Rep. Bob Good, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year, faces a primary challenge from state Sen. John McGuire, a retired Navy SEAL. Virginia’s congressional primaries are scheduled for June 18.

Why it matters: Good came to Congress in 2021, having beaten Rep. Denver Riggleman in a hotly contested party convention and then going on to defeat a well-funded Democrat. He endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president last year, although he quickly endorsed Trump after DeSantis dropped out of the race. McGuire announced his campaign after Good voted to oust McCarthy and is campaigning as a Trump ally. He’s also received support from several of Good’s House colleagues as more House members have been campaigning against each other this year, underscoring the tense relations within the House Republican Conference.

Cash dash: Good led McGuire in fundraising at the end of last year. He had $270,000 on hand while McGuire had $205,000 as of Dec. 31. Candidates are set to update their fundraising reports through the end of this month by April 15. 

Backers: Good campaigned this week with other members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Reps. Chip Roy, Matt Gaetz, Andrew Clyde and Dan Bishop. But some of his colleagues backed McGuire, including Reps. Austin Scott, Mike D. Rogers and Derrick Van Orden. Good shared a photo on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, of McGuire and some Republicans at a fundraiser last week, calling them “RINOs.”

What they’re saying: McGuire argues he is the true Trump ally in the race and argues Good is doing more to help Democrats in the House than Republicans. On the other hand, Good has argued against the spending bill that Congress passed last week. As in many Republican primaries, Trump could be a factor if he formally weighs in. Chris LaCivita, a senior adviser to Trump’s campaign, told the Cardinal News earlier this year that “Bob Good won’t be electable when we get done with him.”

Terrain: The 5th District sits to the west of Richmond. It includes Charlottesville and stretches down to the state’s southern border with North Carolina. Trump would have won the seat by more than 8 points in 2020. Inside Elections rates the race as Solid Republican. 

Wild card: The district has been home to some memorable races over the past few cycles. This was where “Bigfoot erotica” became an issue in the 2018 campaign. When Good first ran for the seat in 2020, he criticized Riggleman for officiating a same-sex wedding. 

Coming up

While the outcome is effectively settled, presidential primaries continue in New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Wisconsin on Tuesday. But one state that had been on the calendar won’t be voting: Biden’s home state of Delaware enacted a state law on March 19 allowing for the primary to be canceled if there’s no contest. Republicans in Mississippi’s 2nd District also can vote in a runoff to choose a nominee to challenge Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Photo finish

Connecticut Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd, left, and Joseph I. Lieberman flank Barney the dinosaur at a promotional event for PBS in the Hart Senate Office Building on Sept. 13, 1993. See more Lieberman photos from the CQ Roll Call archive here. (Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call)

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