With all the ink spilled over the Chafee-Laffey primary last Tuesday, and the inevitable comparisons made to the Lieberman-Lamont primary last month, you could almost lose track of one of the critical ways in which the two primaries are not parallel at all:
Joe Lieberman is a not-so liberal Democrat from a strongly-Democratic state.
Lincoln Chafee is a not-so conservative Republican from a strongly-Democratic state.
That’s the difference: Lieberman evoked so much opposition within his own state because the median Connecticut voter is a Democrat well to the left of him. Chafee would have lost his primary had only Republicans participated, but he drew many of the GOP votes he did based on the recognition that the median Rhode Island voter was a Democrat to the left, not the right, of Chafee.
Joe Lieberman isn’t the Democratic equivalent of Lincoln Chafee. Ben Nelson is more like it. As for the Republican equivalent of Joe Lieberman, there just isn’t one. No state as red as Connecticut is blue has a Republican senator as close to the center as Joe Lieberman is. John McCain isn’t even close.