Looking for an Edge in Connecticut, Lamont Deplores Bush's Support of Lieberman

Democrat Ned Lamont questioned Sen. Joe Lieberman's independence after President Bush praised the incumbent for his support of the Iraq war.

"Clearly President Bush and Dick Cheney are out there campaigning for Joe Lieberman," Lamont said Tuesday during a campaign stop. "They think it's a vote that they can count upon in a pinch. ... The president is out there speaking loud and clear on behalf of Joe."

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In a television interview on Monday, Bush said Lieberman has not wavered in his support of the war, unlike some Democrats who have voted to support it but have since turned against it. Several Republican senators also have raised questions about the U.S. direction in Iraq.

"One man who's stood by his decision is Joe Lieberman," Bush said in an interview on Fox News Channel's "Hannity and Colmes" show. "He understands the consequences." Bush argued that the Democratic Party "ran him out of the party because he stood on principle."

Lieberman, the Democrat's 2000 vice presidential nominee who is running as an independent, has said if he wins a fourth term he would caucus with the Democrats.

Lamont's anti-war stance propelled him to the Democratic nomination in the party's August primary. Recent statewide polls have shown Lieberman with a double-digit lead, in part because of support from Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

Kind words from Bush could help Lieberman in the three-way race. Republican Alan Schlesinger is trailing far behind in surveys and has received no support from national Republicans.

Lieberman played down Bush's comments Tuesday.

"I have said from the first days after the primary ... that I was not going to allow this campaign to become a national political plaything for either side or anybody," he said.

Lieberman has won praise from Bush and help from some prominent Republicans, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Asked by Hannity if he was supporting Lieberman's re-election, Bush insisted he was not taking sides.

"I am studiously staying away from the race," the president said.

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