Con­sol­i­da­tion of base cru­cial for Lieber­man cam­paign

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Charles Hurt

HARTFORD, Conn. — Sen. Joe Lieber­man’s re-elec­tion bid as an in­de­pen­dent will de­pend on whether he can main­tain voter sup­port at home in the next few weeks and raise the money needed to wage a cam­paign against two party-backed can­di­dates.

Exit polling sug­gests that al­though Mr. Lieber­man can rely on sup­port in Novem­ber from most of the vot­ers who picked him in the Aug. 8 Demo­cratic pri­mary — which he lost 52 per­cent to 48 per­cent to busi­ness­man Ned La­mont— he still must draw­sup­port from a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Repub­li­can and in­de­pen­dent vot­ers to win.

The cam­paign can take so­lace from a poll con­ducted two weeks ago by Ras­mussen Re­ports that found 46 per­cent of Con­necti­cut vot­ers sup­port Mr. Lieber­man and 41 per­cent side with Mr. La­mont. Six per­cent said they sup­port Repub­li­can Alan Schlesinger.

Even with an early lead, Mr. Lieber­man will need plenty of money, which is far more dif­fi­cult for him to raise with­out party back­ing. Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing that ef­fort is that Mr. La­mont has shown a will­ing­ness to fund his anti-war cam­paign with his per­sonal for­tune of mil­lions.

Mr. Lieber­man has fired his cam­paign staffers, re­plac­ing them with trusted aides. He also has, be­lat­edly, be­gun force­fully bat­tling charges lev­eled against him dur­ing the pri­mary that he blindly sup­ports the war in Iraq and worked too closely with Pres­i­dent Bush.

And al­though Mr. Lieber­man has lost the back­ing of the Demo­cratic Party lead­ers, it is not clear howac­tively they will sup­port Mr. La­mont’s ef­fort.

“I do not think re­sources are go­ing to be a prob­lem for Joe Lieber­man,” said House Deputy Whip Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, who is lead­ing the ef­fort to raise money for Repub­li­can House can­di­dates. “He is go­ing to get a tremen­dous amount of sup­port from the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity.”

In par­tic­u­lar, Mr. Can­tor said, those donors ap­pre­ci­ate Mr. Lieber­man’s un­wa­ver­ing sup­port of Is­rael and his de­ter­mi­na­tion to root out ter­ror­ism.

“I have spo­ken to many na­tional con­trib­u­tors in the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity who are ex­tremely frus­trated with the steps that were taken to de­feat Joe Lieber­man,” Mr. Can­tor said.

Mr. Lieber­man be­gins his in­de­pen­dent cam­paign with back­ing from about 75 per­cent of his sup­port­ers in the pri­mary, ac­cord­ing to an exit poll con­ducted by the New York Times and CBS News. That amounts to nearly 40 per­cent of the Democrats who par­tic­i­pated in the pri­mary.

His base, ac­cord­ing to the poll, is sig­nif­i­cantly more loyal than is Mr. La­mont’s. Nearly half of Mr. La­mont’s sup­port­ers said they were mo­ti­vated pri­mar­ily by op­po­si­tion to Mr. Lieber­man, while 92 per­cent of Mr. Lieber­man’s sup­port­ers said they were cast­ing their vote be­cause they like Mr. Lieber­man and the job he has done.

And al­though Democrats re­jected Mr. Lieber­man in the pri­mary, the in­cum­bent holds a jobap­proval rat­ing of 56 per­cent.

Mr. Lieber­man also is ex­pected to draw sub­stan­tial sup­port among Con­necti­cut Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents. Though such vot­ers con­sti­tute a ma­jor­ity of the Con­necti­cut elec­torate — and his­tor­i­cally have been very sup­port­ive of Mr. Lieber­man — reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents were pro­hib­ited un­der state law from vot­ing in the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

The ap­par­ent lack of in­ter­est among na­tional Repub­li­cans in their long-shot nom­i­nee likely will help Mr. Lieber­man pick up Repub­li­can votes.

“Con­necti­cut doesn’t ap­pear to be a com­pet­i­tive cam­paign for our nom­i­nee right now, so we are fo­cus­ing our at­ten­tion else­where on races where we might have a greater im­pact,” Dan Ron­ayne, a spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee, told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Sen. Joseph Lieber­man opened his cam­paign as an in­de­pen­dent with a pizza party ear­lier this month in Water­bury, Conn. It was his first pub­lic ap­pear­ance since los­ing the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

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