Poll: Lieberman Leads Challenger Lamont in Connecticut Senate Race

Ned Lamont, whose anti-war campaign rattled the political landscape by toppling Sen. Joe Lieberman last week in Connecticut's Democratic primary, is gaining support in November's three-way Senate race, according to a poll released Thursday.

But the Quinnipiac University poll shows that Lamont still has an uphill battle against Lieberman, the 2000 nominee for vice president who is now running an independent campaign.

Lieberman leads Lamont among registered voters 49 percent to 38 percent. Republican Alan Schlesinger gets support from 4 percent.

That's an improvement for Lamont, who trailed Lieberman 51 percent to 27 percent in a three-way race in a July 20 Quinnipiac poll. That survey of registered voters showed Schlesinger with 9 percent.

Thursday's poll quizzed both registered voters and voters likely to cast ballots in the general election. The July 20 poll only questioned registered voters.

Among likely voters in Thursday's poll, Lieberman was supported by 53 percent, compared to Lamont's 41 percent and Schlesinger's 4 percent.

Lieberman's advantage comes from broad support among unaffiliated and Republican voters. Fifty-three percent of likely voters said he deserves to be re-elected, and nearly half doubted that Lamont has enough experience to be senator.

"Senator Lieberman's support among Republicans is nothing short of amazing. It more than offsets what he has lost among Democrats," poll director Douglas Schwartz said. "As long as Lieberman maintains this kind of support among Republicans, while holding a significant number of Democratic votes, the veteran senator will be hard to beat."

When pollsters asked whether Lieberman should drop out of the race because he lost the Democratic primary, 58 percent of all those surveyed said no, but among Democrats, 56 percent said he should.

A messages seeking comment was left with the Lieberman campaign. Schlesinger said that the poll's timing does not reflect his true level of support.

"This was taken immediately after the Democratic primary and therefore there was a tidal wave of publicity for Lamont and Lieberman," Schlesinger said Thursday. "When people get to see me in debate and see the message I have for moderate and conservative voters, these numbers will change dramatically."

A spokeswoman for the Lamont campaign said the poll suggests that the message is getting out to more than just Democrats.

"We have never run our campaign by polls even when we're ahead, but we're encouraged by the movement and the opportunity we see here," Liz Dupont-Diehl, the campaign spokeswoman said. "Ned will continue to bring his message of change to all Connecticut voters. We have found that it resonates with independents and moderates."

Lieberman, a nationally known centrist who has been criticized by many Democrats for supporting the war in Iraq and a perceived closeness to President Bush, lost the Aug. 8 Democratic primary by 10,000 votes. Political pundits say the primary was evidence of voters' frustration with the war and predict it could have national political ramifications.

Top state and national Democrats, including Sens. John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Frank Lautenberg, abandoned Lieberman after the primary and are endorsing Lamont. Former Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 candidate for vice president, was to campaign for Lamont on Thursday.

Some Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are throwing their support behind Lieberman instead of Schlesinger, who has been dogged by revelations of that he was sued by two New Jersey casinos for gambling debts, and that he gambled at a Connecticut casino under a false name in the 1990s while a state legislator. Schlesinger has rejected Gov. M. Jodi Rell's urging that drop out of the race and let the party select a replacement.

Thursday's poll showed Lieberman with 75 percent of the Republican vote, compared to 13 percent for Lamont and 10 percent for Schlesinger. Among unaffiliated voters, Lieberman garners 58 percent, compared to 36 percent for Lamont and 3 percent for Schlesinger. Among Democrats, Lamont leads Lieberman with 63 percent. Lieberman gets 35 percent of Democratic voters.

"Ned Lamont's Democratic primary win was based on a very small percentage of voters statewide," Schwartz said. "He must expand beyond this base if he is going to beat Lieberman."

Meanwhile, the same poll shows Rell, a Republican, with a large lead over her Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race.

The poll shows Rell leading New Haven Mayor John DeStefano by a 64 to 32 percent margin among likely voters. Among registered voters, Rell leads 60 to 28 percent. That's compared to the July 20 Quinnipiac poll when Rell led DeStefano by a 62 to 25 percent margin.

Rell garners 44 percent of the Democratic voters, 88 percent of the Republican voters and 69 percent of the unaffiliated voters.

"While observers bemoan the polarization of American politics, Connecticut voters are taking a bipartisan path, with most Republicans backing a Democratic senator and a large number of Democrats backing a Republican governor," Schwartz said.

The telephone poll was conducted between Aug. 10-14. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,319 registered voters and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Among the 1,083 likely voters, the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.