Lieberman's Challenger Is Playing Catch-Up

Ned Lamont talks to supporters outside Grove Hill Medical Center in New Britain, Conn. He is widening his platform to include universal health care.
Ned Lamont talks to supporters outside Grove Hill Medical Center in New Britain, Conn. He is widening his platform to include universal health care. (By Jessica Hill -- Associated Press)
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Friday, July 21, 2006

For weeks, political analysts have said that antiwar businessman Ned Lamont is closing in on Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in next month's Democratic primary in Connecticut.

Now there is evidence. A poll released yesterday shows that Lamont has jumped ahead of Lieberman among likely voters, 51 to 47 percent. The lead is within the poll's margin of error, making the race a dead heat with a little more than two weeks until the Aug. 8 primary. In early June, Lieberman, a strong supporter of the Iraq war, led 55 to 40 percent.

The Quinnipiac University poll also shows that Lieberman, who announced he will run as an independent if he does not win the primary, would defeat Lamont and the Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, in a three-way race in the general election. Lieberman would get 51 percent of the vote, Lamont 27 percent and Schlesinger 9 percent.

The closeness of the race has roiled national Democrats, who generally have said they support Lieberman in the primary but have been challenged to say whether they would support his independent candidacy. Lieberman's campaign is touting a visit this coming Monday by former president Bill Clinton.

In anticipation of a primary victory -- and the difficulty of defeating Lieberman in a general election -- Lamont has been widening his policy portfolio beyond the war to include such issues as universal health care and pre-primary education.

Douglas Schwartz, Quinnipiac polling director, said one area in which voters have concerns about Lamont is his lack of experience. But Schwartz said that despite Lieberman's current lead in a projected three-way race, voter perceptions could change if Lieberman loses in the primary.

Democrats Hold On to Lead in Money Race

Senate Democrats' financial advantage over Republicans is continuing 3 1/2 months before voters determine which party will control the Senate for the rest of President Bush's term.

At the end of June, Senate Democrats had nearly twice as much cash on hand as their Republican counterparts, according to data submitted to the Federal Election Commission yesterday.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $8.8 million in June and had $38 million in the bank. The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $4.8 million and had $19.8 million in the bank.

The trend is mirrored on the House side -- though the Democratic edge is less pronounced. At the end of June, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $31.9 million, compared with the National Republican Congressional Committee's $26.5 million.

House Democrats are planning to spend their enlarged war chest on an aggressive television campaign this fall in about two dozen congressional districts, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, the Associated Press reported yesterday. They have already reserved more than $30 million worth of TV time.

Democrats are targeting the Philadelphia area seats held by Reps. Jim Gerlach, Curt Weldon and Michael G. Fitzpatrick, as well as those of Reps. John N. Hostettler (Ind.), Geoff Davis (Ky.) and Steve Chabot (Ohio). The DCCC plans to air ads for eight weeks to try to defeat Rep. Heather A. Wilson (N.M.) and for five weeks to oust Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (Fla.).

© 2006 The Washington Post Company