Lieberman Expects Moderates' Support in Okla.

Published January 28, 2004

| Associated Press

Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (search) shook off the chill of a New Hampshire winter and his fifth-place finish in that state's primary Wednesday, traveling to Oklahoma in search of moderate weather and moderate Democrats.

"Although we love New Hampshire, I must say the temperature here is much more receptive," said Lieberman, who made Oklahoma, with highs in the mid-50s, his first stop after New Hampshire, where the temperature Tuesday night dipped to 3 below zero.

The Connecticut senator, making his sixth campaign stop in the state, said he believes mainstream Oklahoma (search) voters will also be more receptive to his bid for the White House in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

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"I'm optimistic about how I'm going to do," Lieberman said. "My kind of moderate Democrat is the kind that has a chance to win in Oklahoma."

Lieberman received 18,829 votes, or 9 percent of the vote, in the New Hampshire (search) primary. A poll conducted earlier this month showed Lieberman was favored by only 9 percent of Oklahoma voters who plan to vote in the state's Feb. 3 primary.

The survey of 525 Democrats, sponsored by the Tulsa World, showed retired Gen. Wesley Clark in the lead but nearly as many voters were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.27 percent.

"This is an undecided race," Lieberman said.

The poll showed 13 percent for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and 9 percent for Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

John Kerry, winner of the New Hampshire primary and last week's Iowa caucuses, received 7 percent and three other candidates each received 2 percent or less.

Lieberman said he was encouraged by his showing in New Hampshire and believes a strong performance in Oklahoma and six other states with primaries on Tuesday will show he has strong national support.

"It is with that momentum that we go forward," Lieberman said prior to giving a health policy speech at a forum sponsored by the National Health Policy Council at the University of Central Oklahoma.

"We're not going to retool. We're just going to intensify the effort," he said.

A total of 269 pledged delegates are at stake next week in primaries in Oklahoma, Missouri, South Carolina, Arizona and Delaware and caucuses in New Mexico and North Dakota.

"I take Oklahoma seriously. Oklahoma is one of our top priority states." said Lieberman, who is also concentrating on South Carolina, Delaware and Arizona.

"I will be competitive in all of them," he said.

Lieberman said his strong positions on defense issues and moral values will give him the momentum to "reoccupy the mainstream of moderate Democrats."

He said he supports a strong military and was in favor of the war to topple the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Lieberman also supports the repeal of tax cuts for the richest Americans and would push for tax cuts for middle income workers.

He said he also supports health care reforms and the creation of new jobs.

"I am the one experienced moderate Democrat in the race," Lieberman said. "It has been with moderate leadership that we have won elections."

Lieberman, whose sister, Rietta Miller, lives with her husband in Norman, has received several high profile political endorsements including Attorney General Drew Edmondson, state Treasurer Robert Butkin, Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahon and House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell.

"I just hope you judge me by the company that I keep," he quipped.

Lieberman, whose television ads have aired across the state for months, said his appeal to moderate Democrats, independents and "some disaffected Republicans" makes him the best candidate to defeat President Bush in November.

"I'm in this for a reason," Lieberman said. "I'm confident I am ready to be president."

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