- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

HARTFORD, Conn. — Sen. Joe Lieberman closed his anti-war opponent’s double-digit lead yesterday to just six points as both candidates scrambled across the state ahead of today’s Democratic primary.

The latest polling results were a relief to the veteran Democrat, who has represented this state in the Senate for nearly two decades and who just six years ago was his party’s vice presidential nominee. Mr. Lieberman predicted yesterday that the movement in polls showed momentum at his back and said he expects to win today.

“I feel they were flirting with the other guy for a while, wanting to send me a message,” he said at a campaign stop yesterday at the Rajun Cajun restaurant. “I got their message. I think they want to send me back to Washington to continue working with them, fighting for them and delivering for Connecticut.”

Multimillionaire businessman Ned Lamont — who is fairly new to politics but whose campaign took off because of his opposition to the war in Iraq — said yesterday he remains confident that Connecticut voters are looking for a change and continued to frame the election as a referendum on the Iraq war as well as on President Bush.

He also downplayed the polls, telling a Hartford TV station that polls are “little, narrow samples” and “everybody knows they bounce up and down.”

The latest poll results, released yesterday by Quinnipiac University, showed Mr. Lamont leading Mr. Lieberman by 51 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. Last week, Mr. Lieberman trailed by 13 points.

“The race has tightened,” poll director Douglas Schwartz said. “Joe Lieberman has cut Ned Lamont’s lead in half. Going from 13 to a six-point lead is a sign that the race is unsettled.”

Only 4 percent of voters remained undecided, according to the poll, which surveyed 784 likely voters in the Democratic primary. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

While Mr. Lieberman has picked up momentum, Mr. Schwartz said, Mr. Lamont remains in a better position to win today.

Mr. Lieberman’s improved standing comes after he delivered his most strident defense of his service in the Senate and accused Mr. Lamont of distorting his record.

“I am the only Democrat in America to run against George Bush in a national election twice,” Mr. Lieberman said. “You know why I ran for president in 2004? Because I believe that his agenda was wrong for our country and our future, and that’s the truth.”

If Mr. Lieberman pulls off a victory today, it will be a demoralizing defeat for liberal anti-war activists who have built the little-known Mr. Lamont into one of the strongest challengers of the season. Six months ago, Mr. Lieberman had 68 percent to Mr. Lamont’s 13 percent.

Liberal bloggers such as Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, and left-wing groups such as MoveOn.Org have feverishly supported Mr. Lamont. In addition to opposing the Iraq war, which Mr. Lieberman voted for, the liberals also want a dramatic break from Democratic leaders such as Mr. Lieberman, whom they accuse of being too soft on Republicans.

In a post on his site yesterday titled “Random Musings,” Mr. Moulitsas said “we need to crush him” and urged people to help get out the vote for Mr. Lamont today.

“No letup. We don’t want to just win this thing, we want to replicate our success in Montana,” he wrote, referring to Kos-backed candidate Jon Tester, who won the Democrats’ U.S. Senate primary in that state in June. “Let’s end this thing with an exclamation point, yet another dramatic victory in the growth of the people-powered movement.”

In fact, Mr. Moulitsas’ endorsement has been far more a curse than a help, historically. No candidate he has publicly backed has won a general election and only a handful have won primaries.

Still, Mr. Lieberman is taking no chances and is collecting signatures to get onto November’s ballot as an independent if he loses today’s primary. He is widely seen as being a formidable candidate in such a race as he draws strong support from Republicans and independents. Despite pressure from fellow Democrats to abandon any independent campaign, Mr. Lieberman told reporters yesterday that his mind is made up.

cThis article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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