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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Political MVP: Ned Lamont

From the Norwich Bulletin:
Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont spent about $16 million of his own money to run for the U.S. Senate.

It earned him a thorough drubbing in the polls Tuesday. The citizens of Connecticut re-elected Sen. Joseph Lieberman to a fourth term.

Lamont, whose estimated worth is about $100 million, may be blamed for wasting a large sum -- even for him -- on what turned out to be a folly in the minds of many.

After all, $16 million can buy an awful lot or do much good -- such as sending an entire senior class at the Bridgeport high school where Lamont teaches to college, for example. Or keeping homeless shelters and food banks around the state operating this winter. Or, just for fun, buying new Lexuses for all of the members at the swanky country club he abandoned before his run for office.

But Lamont may have gotten more bang for his bucks than any other candidate in a political season in which more than $2 billion was spent. And in the end, his losing candidacy was a winner for many Americans.

From his surprise showing at the Democratic convention in May to his stunning victory in the party primary in August -- and right up to Election Day -- Lamont caught and kept the national spotlight as a lightning rod of opposition to the war in Iraq. He was among the first to speak out loudly and clearly about the obvious failed war policy of the Bush administration, and he was emblematic of a freshness of perspective that caught the attention of voters nationally.

It is not unreasonable to think Lamont's candidacy triggered a national firestorm of anger and introspection about a war that shows no end. If Lamont was a one-issue candidate, it was a doozy of an issue.

Connecticut and America responded. For months, there was more dialogue and constructive criticism about the war and other issues -- including the corruption of absolute power, as shown in recent years by some Republicans. In defeating Lieberman in the primary, Lamont made clear no office holder was safe.

That was shown Tuesday. People came to the polls in larger numbers and spoke loudly their feelings. The results, nationally, were shocking.

Democrats have taken over the U.S. House of Representatives by a wide margin and appear to have made giant strides in the U.S. Senate. A day after the Republican election debacle, President Bush jettisoned his long-embattled secretary of defense, long emblematic of the Iraq War. The timing was no coincidence.

No, Ned Lamont didn't win his race Tuesday. But if the Democrats were to name a Most Valuable Player for this election season, it would surely be him.

More importantly, he may become more -- a figure in history whose actions triggered major changes in the United States, its government and its policies.

At $16 million, that's a bargain.