- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Three weeks before Election Day all indications are that Sen. Joe Lieberman is headed for re-election after stumbling in his party’s primary over the summer.

The Connecticut Democrat, who is running as an independent, leads Democratic nominee Ned Lamont in the polls, has raised more campaign money, and has won a number of endorsements from both parties.

A University of Connecticut poll released last week shows Mr. Lieberman leading Mr. Lamont 46 percent to 39 percent, with 12 percent of poll respondents saying they remain undecided. Republican Alan Schlesinger received just 3 percent in the poll.

The Lieberman campaign also has a fundraising edge, with campaign finance reports showing Mr. Lieberman has raised $14.8 million, compared with $9 million for Mr. Lamont. Mr. Lamont has spent $11 million of his personal fortune on the race, including a $2 million donation made last week.

Still, even if Mr. Lieberman wins re-election, questions remain on what role he will have in the Democratic Party. He has said he will caucus with the Democrats and vote for Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, as majority leader. However, Mr. Lieberman has shown reluctance in recent weeks when asked whether Democrats deserve to win control of Congress.

Mr. Lieberman is currently the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Because of his vocal support for the Iraq war, some Democrats don’t want Mr. Lieberman to lead the committee if he wins the election and Democrats take control of the Senate.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan is the next ranking Democrat on the committee and could be an alternative to Mr. Lieberman.

“We’re waiting till after the election before we make any decisions about committees,” said Levin spokeswoman Kathleen Long, when asked whether Mr. Levin would pursue the homeland security post. Mr. Levin also is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and could not head both panels under Senate rules.

The Lieberman campaign did not return repeated requests for comment yesterday.

In recent weeks, Mr. Lieberman has made several independent moves that caught even some of his liberal critics by surprise.

During a campaign debate last week, Mr. Lieberman announced his support for John R. Bolton, who is serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under a temporary appointment because the Senate did not confirm him. Mr. Lieberman twice previously had voted against ending debate on Mr. Bolton’s nomination and giving the nominee an up-or-down vote.

“I see no reason not to be for Bolton,” Mr. Lieberman said.

The three candidates will square off tonight in their second campaign debate in less than a week.

Mr. Lieberman also recently hedged when asked whether he thought Democrats deserved to win control of Congress this year. When asked again on Monday, Mr. Lieberman said he hoped for a Democratic win, but added, “It’s not going to be much of a step forward if there’s a new Democratic leadership that doesn’t change the tone in Washington.”

Although most Democrats have endorsed Mr. Lamont since he won the Democratic primary, some Democrats running this year, such as Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee, are still backing Mr. Lieberman. Mr. Ford is seeking the seat of outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

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