Lieberman to Opponent: 'I'm Not Bush'

By SUSAN HAIGH
The Associated Press
Thursday, July 6, 2006; 11:25 PM

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. -- U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman sought to distance himself from the Bush administration during a televised debate with his upstart Democratic primary challenger Thursday, telling him: "I'm not George Bush."

Lieberman's opponent, political newcomer Ned Lamont, has gained in statewide polls by accusing Lieberman of straying from his Democratic roots. Just six years after being his party's nominee for the vice presidency, Lieberman has fallen into disfavor among some Democrats for his perceived closeness to President Bush and support for the war in Iraq.

"I know George Bush. I've worked against George Bush. I've even run against George Bush. But Ned, I'm not George Bush," Lieberman said during the debate, televised nationally by MSNBC and C-SPAN. "So why don't you stop running against him and have the courage and honesty to run against me and the facts of my record."

Lieberman, 64, who is running for a fourth term, is facing an Aug. 8 primary battle.

The founder of a cable television company, Lamont has dumped more than $1.5 million of his own money into the race. He has said he is prepared to invest up to $1 million more. During the debate, he cited rising gas prices and health care costs as problems, and repeated his opposition to the war in Iraq.

"In Washington, we're making a lot of bad choices right now," Lamont said in his opening statement. "We're losing a lot of our good paying jobs here in the state of Connecticut, and I wonder about the opportunities for our kids as they get older.

"And Senator Lieberman, if you won't challenge President Bush and his failed agenda, I will," he said.

Lieberman announced Monday he would begin collecting signatures to petition his way onto the November ballot as an independent candidate should he lose the primary.

Polls by Quinnipiac University have shown Lamont's support among registered Democrats increasing from 19 percent in May to 32 percent in June. Lieberman's support in the same period fell from 65 percent to 57 percent.

But the same poll predicted Lieberman winning with 56 percent of the vote if he runs as an unaffiliated candidate, compared with 18 percent for Lamont and 8 percent for Republican Alan Schlesinger.

In an interview on CNN's Larry King Live Thursday, Bush said he was not going to weigh in on Lieberman's primary race and declined to say whether he would support Lieberman if he ran as an independent.

"First, the Democrats have to sort out who their nominee is going to be and that's going to be up to the Democrats. And the rest of it's hypothetical," the president said.

When pressed about his liking Lieberman, Bush responded, "You're trying to get me to give him a political kiss, which may be his death."


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