Lieberman to stay in race even if he loses
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman (news, bio, voting record), the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000 now challenged for
supporting the Iraq war, said on Monday he would run for re-election as an independent if he loses his party's primary.
Lieberman, 64, said he plans to collect enough signatures to run as
an independent candidate in November if he loses the Democratic nomination to a self-financed neophyte who has criticized
his willingness to support Republican President George W. Bush on the war and other issues.
"I'm essentially taking out an insurance policy," Lieberman told CNN. "I'm
opening up an option that will guarantee me that I will be able to make my case to all the voters in Connecticut in November."
Lieberman, the only Jew ever nominated by a major party for president or
vice president, said he would not leave the party even if he did not win its support for a fourth term in the Senate.
"I will stay a Democrat, whether I am the Democratic Party's nominee or
a petitioning Democratic candidate on the November ballot," Lieberman said in a statement.
Analysts said Lieberman stands a good chance of winning the general election
as an independent even if he loses the August primary, which is expected to attract a relatively small number of more ideologically
"This hurts his chances of winning the primary. He knows that," said Kenneth
Dautrich, a professor of public policy at the University of Connecticut. "He's pretty much given up on the fact that he can
win this primary."
In order to run as an independent in November, Lieberman needs to collect
7,500 valid signatures by August 9, the day after the primary. The Republican nominee is Alan Schlesinger.
The campaign has yet to figure out when to launch the petition drive or
who will conduct it, but it will not sap energy from the campaign, Lieberman spokeswoman Marion Steinfels said.
TAX CUTS, VIOLENT MOVIES
Lieberman's legislative record -- he has supported capital-gains tax cuts
and criticized violent movies and music -- has placed him toward the conservative end of the Democratic Party, but it is his
support of the three-year-old Iraq war that has prompted a serious primary challenge.
Ned Lamont, who made millions with his cable television company, has waged
a self-financed fight against Lieberman although he has little political experience. His message has made him a darling of
Internet bloggers who have funneled money and grassroots muscle to his campaign, and recent polls have shown Lamont closing
"It is a sad statement that Senator Lieberman has resorted to taking out
petitions in order to hedge his bets and game the system," Lamont campaign manager Tom Swan said in a statement. "This is
an affront to the people and shows that Lieberman will do anything to hang on to power."
Lieberman found little support among Democrats in his 2004 presidential
candidacy, and a recent poll found more than 60 percent of Connecticut voters believe the Iraq war is wrong.
A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which backs
Lieberman in the primary, declined to say whether Lieberman's fellow Senate Democrats would support him if he lost.
"We aren't going to speculate about what happens next because that would
undermine our candidate," DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland in Washington
and Jim Finkle in Boston)
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