Lieberman Defeated in Democratic Primary

Ned Lamont exults at a victory party in Meriden.
Ned Lamont exults at a victory party in Meriden. "They call Connecticut the land of steady habits," he said. "Tonight we voted for a big change." (By Fred Beckham -- Associated Press)
By Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 9, 2006

HARTFORD, Conn., Aug. 8 -- In a stark repudiation, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) narrowly lost the Democratic Senate primary here Tuesday night, falling to antiwar candidate Ned Lamont in a campaign that became a referendum on the incumbent's support for the Iraq war.

Lieberman publicly conceded the primary shortly after 11 p.m., after a congratulatory call to Lamont. But he appeared almost exuberant in defeat, telling supporters at a hotel in Hartford that he planned to run as an independent in November and predicting that he would be returned to the Senate for a fourth term.

Lieberman, accused by many in his own party of being too accommodating to President Bush, also made it clear that he would try to make the general election a campaign about a tone and style of politics that he said has stalemated Washington and that he charged was at the heart of Lamont's campaign.

"I am, of course, disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged," Lieberman said. "I'm disappointed not just because I lost but because the old politics of partisan polarization won today. For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand."

Lieberman faces potentially substantial hurdles in his independent candidacy, despite a poll taken early in the summer showing him winning a three-way race easily. His own party's leadership is likely to be nearly united in opposition to his candidacy, at least on the basis of their previous statements that they would back the primary winner. Lieberman hopes to attract moderate independents and many Republicans while holding on to at least part of his Democratic support.

Lamont, who was given little chance of winning when he launched his campaign in the spring, appeared moments later before a cheering, chanting crowd of supporters at a victory party in Meriden. "They call Connecticut the land of steady habits," he said to supporters. "Tonight we voted for a big change."

Saying the time has come to "fix George Bush's failed foreign policy," Lamont said he would push for a withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq. "I say it's high time to bring them home to a hero's welcome," he said as his supporters began to chant "Bring them home, bring them home."

In his victory speech, Lamont praised Lieberman for his service to the state but added: "I'm hoping that over the course of the next few days that we'll come to the conclusion that the party's going to stick together and we'll go forward united."

The three-term incumbent lost his bid for renomination exactly six years after he was chosen as Al Gore's vice presidential running mate, marking a fall from grace among his fellow Democrats that came with brutal swiftness and signaled the growing strength of the antiwar movement inside the Democratic Party.

With almost all precincts reporting, Lamont had 52 percent of the vote to Lieberman's 48 percent. The Connecticut secretary of state's office reported strong turnout in a campaign that built in intensity over the summer.

The Senate primary was closely watched around the country as a barometer of antiwar sentiment that could shape the November midterm elections, particularly in Democratic-leaning states.

Beyond that, the Lieberman-Lamont contest carried implications for a Democratic Party that long has been split over national security and whose congressional leaders and prospective 2008 presidential candidates have struggled to find consensus on the war.

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