Sen. Joe Lieberman sat in the center seat between his Democratic and Republican rivals in Monday's final debate — and he got it from both sides.

The three-term senator, who has a 17-point lead in the latest statewide poll, struck back at Democratic challenger Ned Lamont, who has assailed him as a career politician desperate to hang onto his seat.

"You constantly distort and, frankly, just tell lies," Lieberman said during the hourlong debate.

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Lamont bristled at Lieberman's charge. "You can't run from your record," he replied.

Lieberman's support of the invasion of Iraq drew fire from Lamont and longshot Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger during the encounter.

"Joe Lieberman and George Bush's stay-the-course strategy, that's the recipe for failure," Lamont said.

Lieberman defended his backing of the war and warned that Lamont's support for a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawals would be disastrous.

"Your answer is to give up on Iraq," Lieberman said. "Your plan is a recipe for retreat and disaster."

Lamont's primary upset of Lieberman last August was fueled by his anti-war views. Since that defeat, Lieberman has launched an independent bid for re-election. Both candidates are spending heavily for TV ads that attack each other as the race closes.

Schlesinger has tried to use the debates to climb out of the single digits in the polls. Lieberman and Schlesinger are vying for Republican support, so any Schlesinger gains could come at Lieberman's expense.

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