Friday, October 27, 2006

Joe Lieberman: A Brand for All Seasons?

CONNECTICUT – Despite a 90% liberal voting record – according to Americans for Democratic Action – Joe Lieberman's the go-to guy that conservatives trot out when they're forced to name a "voice of moderation" in the Democratic Party. But, other than his support for the war in Iraq, his kiss with George W. Bush, and the vocalization of his support for reinserting Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube, it's hard to characterize Lieberman as anything but an old-time Northeastern liberal, given his positions on taxes, spending, and other issues.

It's clear that Lieberman has the only political equivalent of a golden parachute in America. Held in close embrace by President Bush, slathered over by Fox News and worshipped by the big brains at the American Enterprise Institute, he's emerged as the perennial darling of both the neo-cons and the Republican establishment – and independently-minded Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. After Lieberman lost to Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary this summer, RNC head Ken Mehlman promptly went on Meet the Press to embarrass the fledgling candidacy of Alan Schlesinger, the in situ Republican candidate, by announcing that he's been asked to "stay away from that one." (By whom, one might ask?)

One has to surmise that the Democratic leadership really wants Lieberman to win, given their on-again, off-again reaction towards Ned Lamont since his upset this August. The first tip-off may have been on primary night, when Mr. Lamont’s insurgent status was reinforced by the podium-flanking appearance of Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. This may have been a good move in the primary, but it was certainly not a shout-out to Connecticut’s general election moderates. The irony certainly wasn't lost on Rush Limbaugh, who gleefully posted such a photograph on his website.

It's hard to think of another politician who's mastered the art of being all things to all people. The Brandwagon sees Lieberman as truly one-of-a-kind, a brand like Wal-Mart or The Department of Homeland Security, appealing to the middle of the middle, but attracting harsh rebukes from increasingly vocal opposition on the left. If old Joe wins, both parties can claim partial victory. If he loses, he'll be a shoo-in for an important position in the Bush Administration, most likely the Homeland Security post he probably craves.

Political Brandwagon pundit Denis Riney is a Connecticut resident and a group director for a major US-based branding firm. His expert brand analysis has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and numerous trade publications throughout the world.

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