Some say the "M" in M. Jodi Rell stands for "muddle," a reference to the chaotic condition of the state budget and to the mad scramble she has created in Connecticut's gubernatorial succession.

While last week's headlines indicated surprise, her announcement that she would not run again for governor in 2010 was not entirely unexpected. Less than a month ago, it was noted here that the Republican governor was uncommonly vulnerable and potential successors from both parties were lining up eagerly for a shot at her job.

Wrangling over state finances, a fractious relationship with an adversarial Democratic legislature and strong hints of potential scandals in her administration had taken a toll on her high popularity ratings. That's in addition to the fact that an electorate generally unhappy with the economy usually takes it out on the incumbent chief executive.

Potential successors have been quick to realize that and, as a result, there are at least eight of them considering a run. Early Republican front-runners are Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero. Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz heads the Democratic pack with ex-mayor Dannel Malloy of Stamford, Ned Lamont and James Amann, former speaker of the House, close behind.

The only surprise there, a mild one at that, is that Lamont is among the aspirants. He's the wealthy Greenwich businessman who defeated Joe Lieberman in a primary for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2006, only to lose to him in the general election a couple of months later.

Jokingly, some political observers have feigned surprise that Lieberman has not entered the gubernatorial sweepstakes. He is, after all, a known opportunist who shunted Senatorial obligations aside when he ran for vice president in 2000 and then again in his quixotic bid for the presidential election in 2004.

Nor has he been faithful to the Democratic Party tenets that he says he subscribes to. In 2006, he rejected the decision of voters in the primary and instead made an independent run, defeating his own party's choice and Republican Alan Schlesinger in a three-way contest. Then he had the chutzpah to proclaim himself a "loyal Democrat" and to sit with the party caucus in Washington.

There's more that rubs Democrats the wrong way. There was the time that President George W. Bush kissed Lieberman on the cheek in obvious appreciation of support for the war on Iraq. And last year, Lieberman not only endorsed Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, for president, but actually campaigned with him.

Now that the Democratic Party's call for health care reform with a "public option" is apparently making some headway in Congress the maverick senator declares arrogantly and unequivocally that "I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote." This is from a politician who in the past vehemently opposed Senate filibusters. He describes his current position as a "matter of conscience," conveniently forgetting that in his 2004 campaign he said, "I'm proposing to create a national health insurance pool." The senator is entitled, of course, to whatever position suits him at any given time and has every right to shift with the political winds. But he doesn't have a right to masquerade as a card-carrying Democrat. Nor is the Democratic Party blameless. In its timidity, it tolerates his hypocrisy in its ranks, misleading constituents who surmise from the party label that the Senator subscribes to the ideologies for which they had voted.

Save for admirable allegiance to his religious beliefs, the senator is hardly a bulwark of fidelity. His political machinations are disingenuous at best and why the Democratic Party tolerates them is a political mystery. If he cannot be expelled from the party, then at least he ought to be stripped of any leadership positions.

Thus, there really were no surprises in the Washington and Hartford headlines. In Washington, Sen. Lieberman ran true to form. In Hartford, Gov. Rell is concluding a 25-year career in state service. With a wholesome sense of ethics, she came into the State Capitol like a breath of fresh air after her predecessor left the governor's office reeking with the stench of corruption. She deserves the applause and gratitude of the entire state. Lieberman deserves expulsion from the Democratic ranks.

Contact Ed Chrostowski at ski