Senate Colleagues to Help Lieberman
Wednesday, July 5, 2006; 6:36 PM
WASHINGTON -- Embattled Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman is getting a little help from his Senate friends as he tries to fend off an anti-Iraq war challenger in an intraparty fight.
Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Barbara Boxer of California and Ken Salazar of Colorado plan to campaign in Connecticut for Lieberman between now and the Aug. 8 primary. Their goal is to reassure the party faithful of the three-term senator's loyalty to Democratic causes, including women's issues, labor and the environment.
"It will be a reminder to voters of the work he's done on progressive issues," Lieberman spokeswoman Marion Steinfels said Wednesday. "Some of his colleagues wanted to come here and campaign for him on issues that matter to him and them."
The rush of support from his Senate colleagues comes two days after Lieberman, the party's 2000 vice presidential nominee, surprised Democrats by announcing that he would start collecting signatures for an independent campaign if he loses the primary.
Lieberman's staunch support for the Iraq war has helped fuel a challenge from Ned Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich, Conn., businessman and political newcomer.
Lamont backers scoffed at the notion that senators campaigning in Connecticut for Lieberman would have an impact.
"I'm not sure, in a year where people are fed up with Washington, having a bunch of Washington politicians travel the state for Joe Lieberman will help at all," said Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan. "It would only reinforce the idea that Joe is more about Washington than Connecticut."
Lieberman's move toward an independent bid put national party leaders in a bind. Many support Lieberman personally, but they also are eager to tap the anti-war sentiments of many liberals in hopes of recapturing Congress this fall.
Democrats fear Lieberman and Lamont could split the November vote and hand the Republicans a Senate seat in a three-way runoff. Party officials also did not anticipate having to devote scarce campaign resources to Lieberman in reliably Democratic Connecticut.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have pledged support for Lieberman in the primary, but they refused to say whom they would back if Lieberman loses the primary.
The Democratic National Committee said it would not take sides in the primary but would back the nominee in the fall.
Lieberman's move also complicates the political calculus for Democratic presidential hopefuls, including his Connecticut colleague, Sen. Christopher Dodd, and two other Northeast senators, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Dodd must consider whether his support for Lieberman alienates liberal voters who tend to dominate presidential primaries. Dodd backs Lieberman, but he won't say whom he would support if Lieberman loses the primary and launches an independent run.
Clinton has been a loyal Lieberman supporter but said Tuesday that she would back the Democratic primary winner. Kerry said Wednesday that he also would support the Democratic nominee.
In April, Lieberman began airing TV commercials for the first time in more than a decade. One of the ads tackled the war issue head-on with Lieberman noting the passions his views stirred and urged both sides to find common ground.
Lamont has tapped $1.5 million of his personal fortune, which is estimated at between $90 million and $300 million, to help fund his race. He said Wednesday he may put another $1 million into his race.
Lieberman raised $947,356 during the first three months of this year, pushing his campaign account to $4.7 million at the end of the quarter.
The two Democrats hold their first debate on Thursday.