Lieberman: I'm in the Battle for 3rd Place

Joe Lieberman (search) said Tuesday he is locked in a tight battle for third place in New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary but doesn't need that strong a finish to declare victory.

"Obviously we're in the running for third," Lieberman told The Associated Press. "We feel we're in the hunt for third now."

The latest polls of New Hampshire voters showed the Connecticut senator in a three-way statistical tie for third place with Wesley Clark (search) and John Edwards (search).

"That would be a tremendous result, and it's within reach now, which I'm very excited about," Lieberman said. "The outside experts have been saying it's a four-person race. Clearly, we're in a battle with Clark and Edwards for third."

Lieberman said no matter what his showing, he will do better than expected, enough for him to declare victory. He has said his campaign for president will begin, not end, once results from the primary are tallied.

Lieberman planned to fly Tuesday night to states holding their primaries Feb. 3.

Independents will play a critical role in his performance in the primary, he said.

Several polls released Monday showed Lieberman with between 5 percentage points and 10 percentage points among the seven major Democrats. The number of undecided voters in the polls varied widely, from a low of 4 percentage points to a high of 18.

New Hampshire independents have helped candidates score upsets. Among Republican candidates in 2000, Sen. John McCain won broad independent support in an 18-point victory over George W. Bush.

"They don't give a damn about the polls in New Hampshire," Lieberman said during a campaign stop in Concord on Monday. He then laughed and said, "I do want to mention parenthetically we are going up in the polls."