Lieberman Push for GOP Votes May Aid GOP

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 1, 2006; 10:58 AM

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Sen. Joe Lieberman alienated plenty of Democrats with his independent bid. Just imagine their anger if he costs them control of the House.

The three-term Connecticut senator is aggressively pursuing Republican and independent voters in his race against Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and little-known Republican Alan Schlesinger. That targeted appeal _ and the potential for a strong GOP turnout _ could save three GOP House incumbents struggling to return to Washington.

"There's resentment on a lot of people's parts," said Richard Smith, Democratic town committee chairman in Milford, a New Haven suburb. "There's something about the American character. We love a good fight, but we also love people who play by the rules. C'mon Joe, you're a Democrat or you're not a Democrat. Sometimes, self-interest takes the day."

Reps. Christopher Shays, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons _ GOP moderates in a Democratic-leaning state _ have been on everyone's vulnerable list for months. Democrats need to gain 15 seats to win the House, and the three Connecticut districts consistently have been part of the calculation.

Lieberman has the support of 73 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday. Schlesinger trailed far behind in single digits in the head-to-head matchup.

Lieberman's coattails could carry the GOP incumbents to re-election and undercut Democratic hopes of majority control of the House.

"It does help me," Shays said in a recent interview. "I know there will be a lot of Republicans who will vote for him, as well as a lot of independents and Democrats. ... Joe is the kind of person who reaches across the political divide, and I am like that as well."

Shays is running neck-and-neck against Democrat Diane Farrell in a district that includes affluent New York City suburbs such as Greenwich and Westport. It's a rematch of a bruising fight that Shays survived by just 4 percentage points two years ago.

"Lieberman has a lot of Republican support and that should help the other races," said Charles Flynn Jr., a Republican and former Norwalk city councilor.

Johnson, 71, is a 12-term incumbent locked in a nasty race against Chris Murphy, a 33-year-old Democratic state senator. One of her TV ads features an actor portraying Murphy being welcomed by drug dealers as he campaigns door-to-door.

In a sprawling working-class district in Eastern Connecticut, Simmons' support of the Iraq war has come under heavy fire from Democratic challenger Joe Courtney. It's the most Democratic, and poorest, of the three in play.

Shays and Lieberman are national figures who often buck their parties on key issues. Such independence plays well in Connecticut, a blue state that President Bush lost by 10 percentage points in 2004.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press