This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, January 14, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Well, with 293 days to go.

Well, our next guest is skipping the Iowa caucus to concentrate all of his efforts on New Hampshire. The latest polls show that Senator Joe Lieberman trails frontrunner Howard Dean (search) by over 20 points, but it looks like he is closing the gap with Senator John Kerry.

And he joins us now from the campaign trail in Bedford, New Hampshire. Democratic candidate Joe Lieberman.

Senator, how are you? Good to see you. Welcome back, sir.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sean, I'm good. Good to be back. We were at the home of a guy named Don Burn, who led the McCain campaign in this area in 2000 and is leading my campaign here now.

So we feel like we're on the move. Things are going well.

HANNITY: Well, why hasn't your campaign been resonating a little bit better there? You've seen the numbers. I mean, they don't mean everything, but they certainly are an indicator.

Why aren't you doing a little bit better?

LIEBERMAN: I started behind here, and I said that this race is not a sprint, it's a marathon. It starts here; it won't end here. But I was going to do better than expected.

And we're up now for some of the polls in third place, ahead of Kerry.

But the important thing I want to tell you is that, as I go around, as my workers knock on thousands of doors and make thousands of phone calls, we see a lot of people coming to our side, that this race is wide open here. People are taking a second look.

I think they're coming to my side, because they see that I'm an independent-minded Democrat who could actually win this election.

They're beginning to wonder about -- they're uneasy about Dean. They're unsure about Clark, and I think they're looking for somebody they can trust to do what's right for the country.

HANNITY: You're the only Democrat on national defense issues that does not scare the living daylights out of me. That's not an endorsement, but you don't scare the living daylights out of me. And I actually like your principled stance on terror, and I'm glad you're with the president on a lot of these important issues.

But let me ask you this.

LIEBERMAN: Sean, thanks.

HANNITY: When you were -- well, I think it's a principled stance. And I think the Democrats out ... to be listening to you. And I think they'd fare better in the general election. But let me ask you this...

LIEBERMAN: Well, thanks.

HANNITY: That's OK. When you were running with Al Gore (search)...


HANNITY: ... you guys sort of ran a little bit away from Bill Clinton (search). And I noticed on your Web site today that you are claiming the strongest claim to the Clinton legacy today.

So it seems like a bit of...


HANNITY: Why are you doing that? What's the point?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I mean, first off, this is my campaign to determine.

I just want to say one word about your last comment, which I appreciate. To me, being a Democrat means being strong on defense. I mean, Harry Truman (search), Kennedy, those are the people I had as heroes.

And unless we regain the public's confidence with our presidential candidate as somebody who will really protect the safety of the American people in a dangerous world...

HANNITY: I agree.

LIEBERMAN: ... keep our defense strong and know when to use it, then we have no chance.

HANNITY: Absolutely.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Senator, it's Alan. Good to have you back on the show.

Well, you say you're at the home of a McCain supporter. And let me show you something, and put up something on the screen you said to a crowd just the other day.

You said, "I'm the closest to John McCain (search) as they can get."

You're running as a Democrat, and yet you're invoking John McCain.


COLMES: Does that make sense if you need the Democratic base to win a primary?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it's who I am. I mean, look, I'm a proud Democrat. I believe in the principles of the party, but I know to get things done, and even to win the election, you've got to do more than unite your party. You've got to get independents and even a few members of the other party who are not happy with the status quo.

And I might have said in that case that I'm closer -- I'm very close to McCain personally. We're great friends, but we work together on a lot of stuff, particularly on national security and international relations.

And there's a group of Democrats here and independents who care about that. Independents could cast 40 percent to 50 percent of the ballots in the New Hampshire primary.

COLMES: Mark Reiten is a University of New Hampshire political science professor, certainly knows New Hampshire and says that your stance on Saddam hasn't done you much good with New Hampshire's left of center electorate, which has a substantial anti-war sentiment.

Has that hurt you in New Hampshire, not being more anti-war?

LIEBERMAN: It probably has. But -- And you know, when I took the position supporting the resolution to authorize the war against Saddam Hussein, I was under no illusions.

I knew that that would not be greeted with applause in every Democratic circle. But I did it, because I knew it was the right thing for the safety and security of the country.

And ultimately, I've got the confidence that the voters in this primary will say, even if they disagreed with me on that, "He did what he thought was right for the country. And that's the kind of person we ought to have in the White House, instead of somebody who's playing politics."

So that's my hope. And I'm finding that happening, particularly among independents. But there's also a silent majority, I'd say, of Democrats in this state who have that same feeling about national security. And they want somebody who they can trust to do what's right.

COLMES: Senator, why are you not spending more time in Iowa?

LIEBERMAN: Just decided that nine primaries and caucuses in the first two weeks, totally different schedule. As a matter of timing and resources, better to start it all for me in the first in the nation primary and then spend some time and save some resources for the next week, which goes South, Midwest, and West, where we've got a good base of support.

COLMES: So what's your strategy? You clearly hope to do well in New Hampshire, first, second or third. What's your strategy beyond that?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. Better than expected in New Hampshire. A lot of support.

Look, I'm presenting a unique program here. Strong on security, get the economy going again, and socially progressive of. And nobody does it in quite the same way in the Democratic field.

For that reason, I think I'm the Democrat who actually has a chance to deny George Bush a second term. And that's part of the reason why people are taking a second look at Howard Dean and I believe will start to take a second look at Wes Clark because of all the flip-flops that have been part of his campaign, particularly on the war.

So we're going to do better than expected here, and then go on to win some the next week and be in the finals. Maybe with Howard Dean. We'll see how he does.

COLMES: The Washington Post today referred to you as having an assertive approach to national security and contemplating U.S. intervention on behalf of democracy and human rights.

Is that accurate? Would you intervene elsewhere as we have in Iraq?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I certainly wouldn't take that option off the table. I mean, you stay strong to protect your security and advance your principles in the world. That's what history teaches us. That's what I've learned in my years on the Armed Services Committee (search).

You always want to try to advance your security through nonmilitary means. So you have to choose your shots carefully. But you know, to protect our security and advance our principles, I'm going to be a tough guy.

HANNITY: Senator, when Al Gore went out and endorsed Howard Dean, with not even informing you, I thought, as an objective observer -- I've never been a big fan of Al Gore -- I thought that was an act of betrayal.

Now that you've gotten some distance and perspective, did it hurt at all?

LIEBERMAN: It actually ended up helping my campaign. It was most unusual. People were angry.


LIEBERMAN: And we actually got more contributions on the Internet that week than we got in any single week of the campaign.

It also, I think, at that moment with his endorsement of Dean, clarified the choice. I mean, the clearest choice in the Democratic field, really, is between Howard Dean and me.

HANNITY: I agree.

LIEBERMAN: And in so many ways: he's against tax cuts, I'm for them. He's week on security, I'm strong on security. You know, you could go on and on. And that's the choice the Democrats have to make.

Also -- and I worry whether Howard Dean could win, and I think a lot of Democrats here in New Hampshire are worried about that, too. That's why he's beginning to drop.

HANNITY: He's losing a point -- yes, he's losing about a point a day. Both New Hampshire and Iowa, which is interesting. And it continues.

Do you think it's because -- I have an audiotape of Wesley Clark I got from Rich Laurie of National Review Online today, where he questions the president's patriotism. That's Wesley Clark.

Howard Dean suggested the president may have known about 9/11.

Dennis Kucinich said we're assassinating citizens in Afghanistan.

As a Democrat when you hear that, are you embarrassed?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I would never say any of those things. And...

HANNITY: But as a Democrat? These are fellow Democrats.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I mean, the reality is -- yes, you know, I would say that you've got to run against the person on their record. And that's why I'm running against the president, because I think I can do a better job than he can.

I don't want to leave the American people with a choice between a president who says he's strong on security and a Democratic candidate who says he's going to do better for our economy and health insurance here at home. But I can do both. And I think the American people deserve that.

COLMES: We're just out of time. We'll see you in New Hampshire the week after next. Thanks very much for being on the program.

LIEBERMAN: I look forward to it. I'll be waiting for you.

COLMES: Great.

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