By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Thursday, August 10, 2006; 9:10 PM
NEW YORK -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Wednesday stopped short of calling for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman to abandon his plan to run for re-election as an independent, following his upset primary defeat to newcomer Ned Lamont.
But she reiterated her pledge to back Lamont if he won the state's Democratic primary, and urged Lieberman to "search his conscience and decide what is best for Connecticut and for the Democratic party" before going forward with an independent bid.
"I understand his feeling, it's a difficult time for him and his family," Clinton said at a campaign event in Harlem. "But I said more than a month ago that I would support the winner of the Democratic primary and that's what I intend to do in every way that I'm requested."
The senator said she had called Lamont to offer her help and would soon be contributing money to his campaign.
Clinton, a likely 2008 presidential candidate whose refusal to call for withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq has angered many of the liberal activists and bloggers who campaigned against Lieberman, declined to speculate on the message his defeat sent to her and other Democrats.
"I'll leave that to the political pundits. I'm running for re-election in New York," she said.
Still, with a busy schedule of four campaign events Wednesday after months of doing almost none, it was clear that Clinton, who is running for re-election this year, was not taking the Connecticut results lightly.
A week before the Connecticut primary, Clinton took a new tack on the war, ripping Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a Senate hearing for presiding over a "failed policy." She later called for his resignation.
While she holds a commanding lead over two little-known potential GOP challengers, she faces her own anti-war Democratic opponent, Jonathan Tasini, in the Sept. 12 primary. Tasini, whose campaign has received little attention so far, campaigned furiously around New York Wednesday to draw some reflected glow from the Lamont victory.
"I'm where the Democratic primary voters are on the war. Hillary Rodham Clinton is not," Tasini said in an interview. "What happened in Connecticut is an affirmation of what we've known from the very first day of this race _ that if we actually have a debate about the issues, we'd do very, very well."
But unlike Lamont _ a multimillionaire who spent over $4 million of his own money in the Connecticut contest _ Tasini has struggled to raise money and boost his name recognition. He's raised just over $132,000 for the race, a fraction of Clinton's $22 million campaign war chest.
"I'm not going to be disingenuous. The money issue is going to be a very huge hurdle," Tasini conceded.
Meanwhile, another Clinton critic, film director Michael Moore, took advantage of the results in Connecticut to taunt Clinton in a public letter linking her to Lieberman and President Bush.
"You and Joe have been Bush's biggest Democratic supporters of the war," Moore, director of the controversial anti-Bush film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," wrote. "Last night's voter revolt took place just a few miles from your home in Chappaqua. Did you hear the noise? Can you see the writing on the wall?"
For her part, Clinton spoke fondly of her 30-year friendship with Lieberman, whom she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have known since their student days at Yale Law School. But while President Clinton campaigned in Connecticut with Lieberman, the senator stayed away.
"We have a lot of years in that friendship," she said. "Now, the voters of Connecticut have made their decision and I think that decision should be respected."
Associated Press writer Devlin Barrett in Washington contributed to this report.