Lieberman Weighs Campaign As Independent

The Associated Press
Monday, July 3, 2006; 8:58 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Facing a stronger-than-expected Democratic primary challenge and sagging poll numbers because of his support of the Iraq war, Sen. Joe Lieberman said Monday he'll collect signatures for an independent campaign if he loses next month's primary.

"While I believe that I will win the Aug. 8 primary, I know there are no guarantees in elections," Lieberman told reporters on the steps of Connecticut's statehouse. "No one really knows how many Democrats will come out to vote on what may be a hot day in August."

Once a Democratic stalwart and the party's 2000 vice presidential nominee, Lieberman has fallen into disfavor from some Democrats for his support of the Iraq war and his perceived closeness to President Bush.

He has also been target by liberal blogs, which have given a boost to his challenger and bill the race as a chance to send a message to the Democratic establishment.

The Web site, which helps Democrats set up fundraising campaigns for candidates, has helped bring challenger Ned Lamont nearly $233,000 in contributions as of last week. Lamont also received about $70,000 in contributions from the liberal group Democracy for America by way of the Internet.

Lieberman, running for a fourth Senate term, said his decision to collect signatures was influenced by Lamont's wealth and concerns of a low primary turnout.

"What if my opponent, who says he is worth somewhere between $90 million and $300 million, decides to write bigger and bigger checks in the last weeks of the campaign?" he asked.

Lamont, a multimillionaire owner of a cable television company with little political experience, has so far spent $1.5 million of his own money on his campaign. He has called Lieberman a Republican lapdog and accused him of straying from his Democratic roots.

At a separate news conference Monday, Lamont said Lieberman's decision may split the party and hurt Democrats running for U.S. House seats in Connecticut.

"I can see why he's doing it," Lamont said. "He's worried about the fact that we've an awful lot of support right now."

Lieberman said he wants to take his case to the entire state should he lose the primary.

"My opponent in the Democratic primary is asking Democrats to vote against me because of position on one issue, Iraq," Lieberman said. "I'm asking Democrats in the primary in August and the general election in November to consider my total record."

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