In his April 13 Washington Post column, discussing the Democrats' effort to enact a timetable for ending the Iraq war, Charles Krauthammer asked: "[I]f the electorate was sending an unconflicted message [in 2006] about withdrawal, how did the most uncompromising supporter of the war, Sen. Joe Lieberman [I-CT], win handily in one of the most liberal states in the country?" In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, exit polls indicate that Connecticut voters re-elected Lieberman in 2006 despite his support for continuing the war in Iraq. Further, in the weeks leading up to the election, Lieberman took pains to portray himself as a critic of the war.
Krauthammer also falsely claimed that "almost no Democratic candidates campaigned" in 2006 on support for withdrawal from Iraq. In fact, five out of the six Democratic Senate candidates who defeated Republican incumbents campaigned in support of either withdrawing or redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq.
In his column, Krauthammer criticized the House and Senate for inserting withdrawal provisions in their respective war funding bills, and then argued that Democrats incorrectly perceived their 2006 midterm election victories -- which resulted in the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress -- as a mandate to withdraw from Iraq. Questioning what he claimed Democrats said is their "electoral mandate" to end the war, Krauthammer cited Lieberman's victory and "razor-thin [Senate] victories in Montana and Virginia" by Jon Tester and Jim Webb, respectively:
How at this point -- with only about half of the additional surge troops yet deployed -- can Democrats be trying to force the United States to give up? The Democrats say they are carrying out their electoral mandate from the November election. But winning a single-vote Senate majority as a result of razor-thin victories in Montana and Virginia is hardly a landslide.
Second, if the electorate was sending an unconflicted message about withdrawal, how did the most uncompromising supporter of the war, Sen. Joe Lieberman, win handily in one of the most liberal states in the country?
And third, where was the mandate for withdrawal? Almost no Democratic candidates campaigned on that. They campaigned for changing the course the administration was on last November.
Lieberman had been a strong supporter of the war since it began in 2003, but after his August 8, 2006, primary defeat by anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, he distanced himself from his earlier rhetoric on Iraq, repeatedly emphasizing his intent to end the war and bring U.S. forces home in a television ad and various other campaign activities. Three days before the election, Lieberman stated at a press conference: "None of us wants more war; certainly not me. ... I want to bring our troops home." Additionally, a November 3, 2006, Associated Press article by staff writer Andrew Miga quoted Lieberman attributing his possible re-election to "a lot more reasons than Iraq":
"I will believe that, if this works out and I win, it is because people wanted me to be their senator for a lot more reasons than Iraq," Lieberman said, noting that voters often approach him to say while they disagree with him on the war, they still support him.
Exit polls in Connecticut suggested that Lieberman's views on Iraq were not popular in Connecticut, finding that 63 percent of voters supported withdrawal of "some or all troops" from Iraq.
Moreover, five of the six Democratic candidates who defeated incumbent Senate Republicans supported withdrawal or redeployment from Iraq during their campaigns. Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Tester supported withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, while Webb and Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) supported troop redeployment plans.