DERRY, NH—John McCain and Joe Lieberman just wrapped up a town hall in this town south of Manchester. It's the first time I've seen McCain stump and answer questions outside of DC since 2000, when he came to my alma mater, and I'll admit it, I see how he wins people over: He tussled for four minutes with a pushy anti-Iraq war voter who kept asking him when we could leave Iraq.
"We're still in South Korea," McCain said. we still have troops in Bosnia. I'm worried about U.S. casualties, not U.S. presence."
The questioner pushed back, and McCain got a little tougher: "If we had left six months ago, I would look you in the eye today and tell you al Qaeda had won. They would had forced us out and claimed victory. Six months ago people who were saying what you're saying said the surge would fail. Well, it has succeeded."
So the questioner asked how long McCain would keep troops in Iraq: "The president says we might be there for 50 years." "Maybe 100," McCain said. "We still have bases in South Korea."
After all of this the questioner still wanted to ingratiate himself with McCain. "I just want to say, I hope you kick Romney's ass." McCain chortled. "I knew there was a reason I called on you!" He moved on to softer terrain while praising the questioner for the tussle: "This kind of discussion is important. This is what we need to have."
I don't know how to characterize Lieberman's role in the forum: He wasn't a good cop or a bad cop as much as a McCain apologist. After a question on immigration Lieberman leaned into his mic and said "I was there during the immigration debate, and the idea that John McCain supported any kind of amnesty is a lie." This despite Lieberman being, uh, a supporter of amnesty. The rest of his comments painted a beautiful future where Lieberman-like Democrats and McCain-like Republicans weld their desks together and agree on things. I was waiting in the exit in front of Lieberman's path out, so I asked him a question about the fellow Connecticut senator who campaigned for Ned Lamont in 2006.
"If Chris Dodd drops out of the race and he made a run for majority leader, would you support him?"
Lieberman frowned and turned away, then looked back at me with his mouth half-open. "He's a good guy."