Could Joe return to the Dems?


Yesterday, there were rumors that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) might think about becoming a Democrat. Today, The Hill kicks off what could be an endless couple of years of speculation by writing that Sen Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) might run as a Democrat in 2012, although his quotes appear more like someone who doesn’t want to rule out any options rather than someone truly thinking of returning to the fold (and it’s not like a lot of Democrats would exactly welcome him back):

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is not ruling out running as a Democratic candidate in his reelection race in 2012.

Lieberman said on Thursday that he has been asked by friends about the possibility of returning to the party that nominated him for vice president in 2000.

With his reelection race not imminent, however, Lieberman said the only probability for now is that he will seek a fifth term.

“It’s a ways away,” Lieberman told The Hill. “I’ve been asked, ‘Are you running?’ and I’ve said, ‘You have to always assume that anybody in office is running until and unless they not only announce but they actually leave the office to run for reelection.’

“I’m an independent Democrat, and that gives me options,” he added.

Asked if his recent overtures toward the Democratic Party make it likely that he will formally rejoin the party, Lieberman hedged.

“I wouldn’t reach that conclusion,” he said.

The paper also says that Lieberman will support his Connecticut colleague Chris Dodd for re-election in 2010, even though he was disappointed that Dodd backed Democrat Ned Lamont in the general election. (Considering Lamont was the Democratic primary winnner, and members of the Democratic Party are suppposed to back the nominee of their party, Lieberman should not have been surprised by Dodd’s decision.)

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Associated Press earlier this week, Lieberman had lots of good things to say about President Obama’s first 50 days in office:

"He’s shown real leadership," Lieberman told The Associated Press in an interview. "Bottom line: I think Barack Obama, president of the United States, is off to a very good start."

The Connecticut independent, who faces re-election in 2012 in a state where Obama is popular, is eager to mend fences with Democrats still fuming over his criticism of Obama during the general election campaign.

Lieberman has applauded Obama’s national security team. He gushed over Obama’s "inspirational and unifying" inaugural. Lieberman even played a key role helping Obama win Senate passage of the economic stimulus plan.

As if to underscore the point, Lieberman has even clashed on the Senate floor with his pal McCain over the stimulus plan and a District of Columbia voting rights bill.

"I don’t think of Joe as the independent, I really think of Joe as a Democrat," said Lieberman’s home state colleague, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.

Lieberman said even though he backed John McCain last fall and was criticial of Obama, no one should be surprised at his alliance with the new president.

Lieberman scoffed at any suggestion his embrace of Obama is more about political expediency than principle.

"I haven’t changed … I’ve always had a voting record that is more with the Democrats than with the Republicans," he said.

Many Democrats still chafe at how Lieberman needled Obama during his Republican National Convention speech with the line "eloquence is no substitute for a record."

Or when Lieberman cast the race as a choice between "one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not. Between one candidate who’s a talker, and the other candidate who’s the leader America needs as our next president."

Lieberman said he understands why he struck a nerve with Obama’s backers.

"We were in the middle of a campaign and we just plain disagreed … When I said those things not only did I believe them, but I believe looking at the records of the two people then, they were right," Lieberman said.

Lieberman said he never meant to suggest that Obama did not put his country first. Lieberman said his words were "too subject" to that interpretation and that he wishes he had spoken more clearly.

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