- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

Sen. Joe Lieberman started a weeklong “Leading with Integrity” tour yesterday aimed at breathing life into his struggling presidential campaign.

A year ago, the Connecticut Democrat was expected to be a major force in the primary, as he had been on the ticket in 2000 when his running mate, Vice President Al Gore, lost to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. In the past 12 months however, Mr. Lieberman’s poll numbers have declined and he has struggled to raise money.

As part of his tour this week, he is introducing policy proposals in key states. He also is using the campaign stops to make more vigorous attacks on the economic and environmental policies of the Bush administration as well as the president’s handling of the war in Iraq.

“George Bush and his administration have taken our country far off track,” Mr. Lieberman said in a speech in New Hampshire yesterday. “And, even worse, they lack the honor and integrity to acknowledge their mistakes, change direction and give our country the fresh start it deserves.”

Mr. Lieberman’s platform includes additional tax cuts for middle-class families and higher taxes for the wealthy, even above the levels before Mr. Bush’s tax cuts took effect.

His plan says that a married couple earning $50,000 would save about $1,000 in taxes and a couple earning $100,000 would save about $2,000.

Less clear is Mr. Lieberman’s plan for Americans earning $200,000 or more per year. He would take away all of Mr. Bush’s tax cuts for top wage earners and levy an additional tax, which wasn’t explained further in the plan he released.

He promises to eliminate the annual budget deficit — now hovering around $400 billion — by 2012.

After Mr. Gore announced last year that he wouldn’t run again, Mr. Lieberman led the field of Democratic contenders with 20 percent, largely benefiting from high name recognition. A recent Newsweek poll, however, has Mr. Lieberman in fifth place with 10 percent support.

Mr. Lieberman this year has raised roughly $12 million, less than former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean raised in the third quarter alone. He also lags behind Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts with about $18 million and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who has raised about $15 million.

“It’s always very hard to win a primary when you’re the moderate in the field,” said Jennifer Duffy with the Cook Political Report. “He’s not a podium pounder.”

Mr. Lieberman began his tour yesterday in Connecticut and New Hampshire, home of the nation’s second nominating contest. During the rest of the week, he will visit Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Michigan.

Noticeably absent from Mr. Lieberman’s itinerary is Iowa, home to the nation’s first nominating contest.

Instead, Mr. Lieberman is focusing most of his campaigning energy on later, more conservative states. South Carolina and Oklahoma, for instance, are among the seven states scheduled to vote Feb. 3, the third and crucial primary election day for a candidate like Mr. Lieberman.

“He has to raise a bunch more money,” Ms. Duffy said. “He has to make it to February 3, and on February 3 he’s got to score a huge win.”

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