MERIDEN, Conn. – Though Sen. Joe Lieberman expects to win a lot of Republican votes Tuesday, the Connecticut lawmaker said he won't feel especially beholden to the GOP if he is elected to a fourth term.
"I'll owe everybody and that's the point," Lieberman said Monday as he pressed for final votes at a senior center in Meriden.
Lieberman, whose Senate career was at risk just three months ago after he lost to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary, led Lamont by 12 percentage points in a statewide poll released Monday.
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Lieberman is running as an independent and has enjoyed support from the GOP, including praise from the White House and fundraising help from prominent Republicans such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But he said his comeback since the primary has convinced him that he needs to be a stronger independent voice.
"It's taken me as an independent-minded Democrat and really empowered me to be more independent," said Lieberman, the Democrats' 2000 vice presidential nominee. "Parties are important, but they're not as important as the public interest."
Potential gains by Democrats mean the Senate could end up in a 50-50 split, or something close to it. Republicans, who have already helped Lieberman's campaign, would likely court him in hopes of persuading him to switch parties.
Lieberman has pledged to remain a Democrat.
"At every occasion I'm going to try my best to build bridges instead of walls between people in both parties," he said.
Lamont, a Greenwich businessman and political newcomer who has spent $16 million of his own money, including a $2 million loan, on the race, gave a final speech at a union office in Hartford on Monday. He echoed the theme of change that he has used throughout the campaign.
"I say we have a lot of people who have been in Washington D.C., too long," Lamont said. "It's time to bring some new people down there who are going to shake up the way we do business."
Lieberman's independent bid rankled many Democrats who questioned his party loyalty. He has admitted to some bruised feelings about Democratic colleagues such as fellow Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, who endorsed him in the primary but is now backing Lamont.
"Well, we're all grown-ups," Lieberman said. "And the Senate is ultimately 100 people going to work in the same place every day and your ability to get things done depends on how well you get along with the other workers, so it will be fine."