Lieberman seeks strength on home turf



While U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 may not be getting the attention of some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, he has earned the support of many of his home state’s most prominent Democrats.

Lieberman, a Connecticut native who has represented the state for almost 15 years, has been endorsed by fellow Sen. Christopher Dodd and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73. In addition, several local political leaders, including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, have come out in support of Lieberman’s campaign.

Yet while Lieberman began as perhaps the best-known candidate of the 10 Democrats vying to unseat President Bush, he has not been able to take a place as one of the front-runners in the race. In recent months, Lieberman has lagged behind candidates like former Vermont Governor Howard Dean ’71 and Mass. Senator John Kerry ’66 in national polls and campaign fund raising.

But Blumenthal, one of the most prominent members of the Connecticut Democratic Party, said Lieberman was still performing well with months left before the first primaries in January.

“It’s a real marathon,” Blumenthal said. “It’s not like a normal campaign that’s a few months or a few weeks long.”

Blumenthal said he was supporting Lieberman because he would bring “tremendous intelligence and integrity” to the White House.

“We know him,” Blumenthal said. “Rarely does anyone know a presidential candidate as well as we know Joe Lieberman.”

But many polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, states that hold critical early primaries, show Lieberman running fourth or fifth. In addition, Lieberman’s high name recognition — based largely on his experience as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 — is no longer boosting him to the top of the national polls. While the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of registered Democrats showed Lieberman leading all candidates nationwide in late August, it found the Connecticut senator had dropped to fifth by last week.

Dodd, who once considered staging his own campaign for the presidency, wrote an op-ed for the Hartford Courant in late August challenging the argument that Lieberman had no shot at winning the presidency.

“My support for Joe is not just a case of home-state pride or friendly obligation,” Dodd wrote. “I am backing Joe because I am convinced that he has the best chance of any Democrat in the race to beat George W. Bush and get our country back on the path of prosperity and progress we were on in the 1990s.”

Adam Kovacevich, a spokesman for the Lieberman campaign, said Connecticut residents have played an important part in the campaign even though the state does not have an early primary. He said Lieberman supporters traveled to New Hampshire earlier this month to campaign for the senator, and Connecticut politicians have tried to “spread the word” about Lieberman to their counterparts in other states.

“We don’t take anyone’s support for granted, but we’re very pleased with the amount of support we’ve received from the people who know Joe Lieberman and his record the best,” Kovacevich said. “There’s a lot of home-state pride in this campaign.”

At Yale, however, Lieberman has not earned the level of support of some of the other Democratic candidates — including the other Yale alumni running for president. Alicia Washington ’05, president of the Yale College Democrats, said Lieberman has one of the smaller followings on campus among the major candidates.

“A lot of people see him as a very moderate Democrat,” Washington said. “That’s not really a strong base we have here on campus.”

Washington said Dean had the largest following on campus — a fact she attributed to Dean’s appeal to liberal voters as well as his campaign’s efforts to reach out to student groups.

But Robert Trudel ’05, who has helped organize Lieberman supporters, said the Connecticut senator is popular among students who have been involved in politics for a long time. Trudel said Lieberman had a very good chance in a campaign where many Democrats across the country are not yet paying close attention.

“Being on campus — and a pretty liberal one — we get this idea that there has been a primary going on for nine months,” Trudel said. “Nationwide, it hasn’t really started yet.”

Comments