Joe Lieberman (search) counted on independents for a stronger-than-expected showing in Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary, which he said would be a victory regardless of where he placed among the seven candidates.

The Connecticut (search) senator was undeterred by early results putting him in fifth place with about 10 percent of the vote.

"Senator Lieberman has said all along that his campaign starts here, it does not end here," spokesman Dan Gerstein said.

"The standard for showing some strength here is to do better than expected. A week ago we were in the low single digits. After a very strong debate performance Senator Lieberman jumped up in most of the tracking polls," Gerstein said.

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Lieberman, who skipped last week's Iowa caucuses to focus on New Hampshire, said he planned to begin stumping in the next round of primary states as soon as the New Hampshire ballots were tallied.

Lieberman positioned himself as a mainstream Democrat less susceptible than his rivals to Republican attacks, including that he would raise taxes, that he flip-flops on issues and that he is weak on values.

Though a centrist campaign was credited with putting President Bill Clinton (search) the White House during the 1990s, the early appeal of the left-leaning Howard Dean caused some Democrats to question whether the approach would work for Lieberman.

In a race in which only half the voters were registered Democrats -- the rest were mostly independents, who in New Hampshire can vote in either party's primary -- Lieberman did best among the relatively few voters with positive views of President Bush and his policies, according to interviews with voters leaving the polls.

The findings were from preliminary results of a survey of 1,375 New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. Results were subject to sampling error of plus of minus 4 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

This is Lieberman's second trip on the presidential campaign trail; his first was as Al Gore's running mate in 2000.

Gore and Lieberman won the popular vote by a half-million votes but conceded to Bush after a tumultuous 36-day recount in Florida and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote against them.

Lieberman was spurned by Gore in December, when his former running mate endorsed Dean.