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Outsiders help pump both Connecticut bids

Published August 13, 2006

HARTFORD, Conn. - Sen. Joe Lieberman made an unusual pitch to people outside Connecticut when he conceded the state's Democratic primary to Ned Lamont and announced plans to run as an independent.

"If you're disappointed with the ugly tone of our politics, if you're fed up with the nasty partisanship in Washington, then I ask your help, too," said Lieberman, who was criticized as being too close to the Republican administration.

Lieberman called on people across America to visit his Web site and send ideas "on how we can build this new politics of unity and purpose." He also asked for campaign contributions.

"Together I am confident that we can find common ground and secure a better future for our children," he said. "That, and not partisanship, is what our politics ought to be about."

The next day, Lieberman discussed his decision to run as an independent before a national audience on CNN's Larry King Live.

Lieberman's plea to voters beyond Connecticut comes as many Democratic Party leaders in and out of the state are abandoning the three-term incumbent and publicly endorsing Lamont. Several have urged Lieberman to withdraw from the race.

However, the centrist Democrat has the benefit of being well known outside his state. Aside from being the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000 and a presidential hopeful in 2004, Lieberman also is part of the so-called Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of moderate senators who have tried to work together on various issues.

"Lieberman has a national reputation. He was on a national ticket. He's regarded by at least the Sunday talk shows as one of the senators who typically makes the circuits. So he has somewhat of a national following," said Ken Dautrich, a University of Connecticut public policy professor.

Although the appeal to a national audience is an unusual move for a state election, Dautrich said it makes sense for Lieberman. He said Lamont has already benefited from national support, including, a liberal Internet-based organization whose members have contributed more than $250,000 to the anti-war candidate.

"Even though this was a Connecticut election among Democratic voters, it really had a national flavor to it given all the attention it got," Dautrich said.

Lieberman has come under fire for his support of the Iraq war and a perceived closeness with President Bush and Republicans. Lamont capitalized on that ill will and portrayed Lieberman as being out of touch on the war and key Democratic issues such as health care coverage and education spending.

Lamont's campaign said Lieberman's pitch to people outside the state is an example of the senator trying desperately to hold on to power.

"He didn't like the decision of the voters of Connecticut so he's appealing to people outside of Connecticut," said Liz Dupont-Diehl, campaign spokeswoman.

[Last modified August 13, 2006, 02:26:18]

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