All of which leads me to my present day point. According to the latest Zogby poll, Joe Lieberman is sitting at 7% support in New Hampshire and only 2% in Iowa. Worse yet, according to an American Research Group poll, Lieberman is viewed unfavorably by 38% of New Hampshire voters. Only Al Sharpton has a worse unfavorable rating (46%). Finally, to the extent Lieberman had a Southern strategy, it's worth noting that, according to Zogby, he has gone from leading in South Carolina to being tied for second with Wesley Clark behind Howard Dean. A dispassionate analysis suggests that Lieberman's prospects are essentially zilch. The rational thing to do would be to quit.
If Joe Lieberman is saying to himself, "well, we've already spent so much time and effort on it, we have to keep going to justify those expenditures," he is making a classic economic mistake. The relevant economic concept is sunk costs:
When what is done cannot be undone. Sunk costs are costs that have been incurred and cannot be reversed, for example, spending on ADVERTISING or researching a product idea.The rational decisionmaker does not factor sunk costs into his analysis. When I lived in Illinois, I had season tickets to UI football. Inevitably, the last game of the year would be played in lousy weather - snow or sleet or something likewise awful. (Boy, I don't miss that stuff.) I would propose staying home instead of going to the game. The good wife would insist that we should go because we had paid for the tickets. And I would explain sunk costs: We had already paid for the tickets. We could not get our money back. The sole question was whether the utility of going to the game outweighed the utility of not freezing to death. The cost of the tickets was irrelevant to that calculus. (The good wife grasped this concept quite easily, being a smart cookie, and not infrequently uses it for her own nefarious purposes.)
The time and effort Joe Lieberman has put into his campaign are sunk. If he is a rational decisionmaker, they will not affect his decision. And, I'm afraid, it looks like the rational choice here is to stop throwing good money, time, and effort after bad.
Of course, Lieberman might not be thinking about the problem in sunk cost terms at all. Maybe he is telling himself "hope springs eternal." If so, however, he is being irrational in the face of strong evidence that, as Eomer put it in The Two Towers, "do not trust to hope, it has forsaken these lands." Or perhaps he is saying to himself, "I'm still going to win." If so, however, he's just nuts.
PS: Don't even get me started on Carol Mosley Braun, Dennis Kucinich, or Al Sharpton!
UPDATE: Steve Verdon offers three reasons why Lieberman might be acting rationally, the most plausible (IMHO) of which is that he's angling for another shot at being Veep. But even that would be curious. Why run again for the job John Nance Garner famously said was "not worth a warm bucket of spit"? It can't be in hopes of using the VP slot for a future run for president. Besides the poor track record of VPs, Lieberman was born in 1942. If elected VP in 2004 and relected in 2008, he would be 70 when running in 2012, which is pretty old to be running for President, Reagan notwithstanding.