Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman loses in test of anti-war mood

Lieberman loses in test of anti-war mood
By Holly Yeager in Hartford, Connecticut
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: August 9 2006 05:58 | Last updated: August 9 2006 05:58

Joseph Lieberman, a three-term US senator and the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2000, suffered a stinging defeat on Tuesday in a party primary that was seen as a referendum on the Iraq war.

But Mr Lieberman insisted he would continue to fight to hold on to his US Senate seat, and said he would file papers on Wednesday to run as an independent in the November mid-term congressional election.

“We’ve just finished the first half,” Mr Lieberman told a roomful of supporters in a Hartford hotel late Tuesday. “In the second half, our team, team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory.”

With nearly all results tallied, Mr Lieberman was defeated by Ned Lamont, a wealthy cable television executive and political novice, by a 51-48 per cent margin. That result was far closer than recent polls had suggested, perhaps the result of a late advertising blitz by Mr Lieberman and an aggressive get-out-the-vote effort.

Mr Lamont based his challenge on Mr Lieberman’s support for President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. While standing by his backing for the war, in recent days Mr Lieberman sought to distance himself from Mr Bush on a wide range of issues, stressing his support for broad Democratic party priorities and criticising the conduct of some US operations in Iraq.

Liberal Democrats, fuelled by left-wing blogs, have used the race to underscore the strength of anti-war sentiment within the Democratic party, and believe Mr Lamont’s victory will force 2008 presidential hopefuls to embrace strong anti-war positions. But Republicans have signalled that they would use a defeat of Mr Lieberman to paint Democrats as weak on national security.

But the result in Connecticut will also serve as a warning for incumbent Republicans, who may try to distance themselves from Mr Bush and the war in the three months remaining before November’s midterm elections.

Mr Lieberman’s decision to run as an independent will be problematic for Democrats. Many party leaders, including Bill Clinton, the former president, and Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the party’s 2008 presidential nomination, have already declared that they would support the winner of the primary.

Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist who campaigned with Mr Lamont on Tuesday, said an independent bid would be “divisive” and “tear up” the Democratic party.

As he celebrated his victory late Tuesday, Mr Lamont thanked the grassroots and internet activists who had helped him, as well as organised labour and others. “We’ve got a coalition for change – it’s starting in Connecticut and we’re going to take it beyond.”

The final day of campaigning was marked by one unusual development: Mr Lieberman’s campaign website stopped working, and some aides suggested that it may have been hacked by supporters of Mr Lamont.

Mr Lamont’s campaign denied it had any role in the failure of Mr Lieberman’s campaign website.

Mr Lieberman asked law enforcement officials to investigate the matter, and as he pushed his independent candidacy, he invited supporters to visit his website “when it is unhacked”.


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