updated 8/21/2006 12:55:08 PM ET 2006-08-21T16:55:08

President Bush said Monday he'll stay out of the Connecticut Senate race, widely seen as a referendum on the war in Iraq.

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Anti-war businessman Ned Lamont beat U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in an Aug. 8 Democratic primary, largely by criticizing Lieberman's support of the war and accusing him of being too close to Bush and Republicans.

Lieberman is now running as an independent, and national Republicans have declined to back Alan Schlesinger, the Republican candidate in the race. He drew support from 4 percent of likely voters in a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, compared with 53 percent for Lieberman and 41 percent for Lamont.

"I'm going to stay out of Connecticut," Bush said at a news conference Monday.

When a reporter reminded him that he was born in Connecticut, Bush grinned and said, "Shhhhhh."

During the primary campaign, Lamont supporters wore buttons with a picture of Bush appearing to kiss Lieberman's cheek after his 2005 State of the Union address. Top Bush adviser Karl Rove has said he called Lieberman on primary night and wished him well, although he denied offering the senator help in the election's final hours.

Bush said during his news conference Monday that he was troubled that so many U.S. House and Senate candidates were calling for withdrawal U.S. forces from Iraq. Lamont is among those calling for a speedy withdrawal.

"There are a lot of good decent people saying `get out now. Vote for me, I'll do everything I can to cut off money...' It's a big mistake," Bush said. "It would be wrong, in my judgment, to leave before the mission is completed in Iraq."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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