A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE. Each person who opposes Joe Lieberman has their own theory of when the tide started to turn against him, and why, but I date it to the speech he gave at the National Press Club on August 4, 2003. Lieberman in 2003 pioneered a raft of negative criticisms later used by Republicans against Democratic candidates, including John Kerry, at a time when the G.O.P. had not yet begun to publicly fight the '04 race. So he did not merely mouth Republican talking points -- something he's been frequently accused of doing in recent months -- but actually actively helped write them. And he laid most of them out that day at the Press Club, in a whalloping blast of a speech. Wrote Susan Page at USA Today on August 5, 2003:

"A candidate who was opposed to the war against Saddam, who has called for the repeal of all of the Bush tax cuts, which would result in an increase in taxes on the middle class ... could lead the Democrat party into the political wilderness for a long time to come," Lieberman said when asked about the former Vermont governor during an appearance at the National Press Club.

"I share the anger of my fellow Democrats with George Bush and the direction he has taken this nation," the Connecticut senator said at another point. "But the answer to his outdated, extremist ideology is not to be found in the outdated extremes of our own."

Lieberman's speech spotlighted a divide among Democrats about the party's direction and its approach in taking on President Bush. Dean has turned a long-shot insurgency into a prominent campaign with an anti-war message and a promise to represent "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party."

Lieberman leads in national polls � reflecting his standing as the vice-presidential nominee in 2000 � but Dean is the candidate who landed on the cover of this week's Time and Newsweek....

Lieberman directed fire at other Democratic contenders, although he didn't mention them by name. He said it was "wrong" to respond to the health insurance crisis "with a break-the-bank, $2 trillion-plus program" � a reference to Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt. And he decried those who were "ambivalent" after the war with Iraq. That was an apparent reference to Kerry, who voted to support the war but has raised questions about Bush's justification for the war and its aftermath.

Lieberman ran to the right of every other candidate in that race. And to the extent that a whole new generation of Democratic Party activists were developing a sense of who he was, they did so through his sharp political attacks during that race, rather than the milder ones he'd made as part of the Gore-Lieberman ticket in 2000, or through his relatively liberal legislative record before that. That's why, within days of his press club speech, blogs started calling for his ouster and writing "Joe Lieberman must go." It's hard to remember now, but Lieberman was the early front-runner for the presidential nomination in 2003, until he was outpaced by Howard Dean. This battle was set that year, when the '04 battlecry for Democratic primary voters become "Anybody but Lieberman" and he was voted the "least-liked candidate" in an Iowa Poll, second only to Al Sharpton. As Ayelish McGarvey and Matthew Yglesias wrote on this site upon the end of Lieberman's presidential ambitions in February 2004, "To win elections...you need to connect with actual voters...Democrats overwhelmingly rejected a candidate who often seemed more interested in intraparty factionalism than in attacking the opposition."

The complaint against Lieberman has not substantially changed since then.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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