Crucible?

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David Broder writes a decidedly odd column. Well, not really odd, more of a lament for Lamont. For in Broder's view, the Connecticut Senate race is all about how the nation views the entire war in Iraq and the war on terror, by extension. He opens by explaining how only Alan Schlesinger, the Republican candidate, was having any fun at all at the last debate. Then he tells us more:

It is not clear what the performance by the underfinanced Schlesinger, who has been officially abandoned as a candidate by the state and national GOP organizations, will do to the race. Lamont strategists hope he will attract more voters from the Republican base and thereby deprive Lieberman of support he might get from Republicans grateful for his sticking with President Bush on the war.

Lamont has no appeal to those Republicans and is also losing to Lieberman among independents, who respond to the senator's claim that he follows his conscience on national policy and delivers for the state. Polls also show that Lieberman has been taking more than one-third of the Democratic vote from Lamont. Reducing that percentage has become the chief objective for the Lamont campaign.

The outcome of their fight is important nationally for the meaning that will be attached. While other states such as Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio and Virginia will decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate, this Connecticut race constitutes perhaps the nation's clearest test on the Iraq war.

Lieberman insists he is not wholly in the Bush camp but still argues that a victory in Iraq is possible and essential for American security — whatever that may mean. "I'm not ready to give up on the Muslim world," he said, adding that a democratic Iraq could serve as a model for the Middle East. His winning and returning to the Senate and its Democratic caucus would slow, if not reverse, growing pressure from the Democrats for an early pullout of U.S. forces.

On the other hand, should Lamont repeat his primary win over Lieberman and capture the seat, it would add immeasurably to the momentum of the antiwar forces. He says that he is running in order to end the nightmare of "140,000 of our brave troops stuck in the middle of a bloody civil war."

Broder, rather obviously, has a side here in the debate. Sadly for him, Lamont is not the candidate Broder wishes him to be. That, I rather suspect, is the point of the piece. Broder wants a debate that isn't happening. No, not really a debate. He wants a specific outcome in a specific direction. And he sees it won't happen with Lamont.

UPDATE: QandO: The crucible isn't exactly the way Broder is presenting it. It is primarily an internal debate within the Democratic party which will have real results in determining the direction of the party.

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