Video: Lieberman ends presidential quest

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/3/2004 10:52:36 PM ET 2004-02-04T03:52:36

The Associated Press and MSNBC.com's Michael E. Ross contributed to this report.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, unable to inspire Democratic voters who embraced his 2000 vice presidential campaign, ended his presidential bid Tuesday night after a string of disappointing defeats, The Associated Press has learned. Lieberman promised he was "ready to support our party's nominee.

After congratulating Sens. John Kerry and Edwards on their strong showings in several states, Lieberman formally ended his campaign.

"It is time to make a difficult but realistic decision, to end my quest for the presidency of the United States of America. Am I disappointed? Naturally. ... Am I grateful for the support that I received from all of you and so many people around the country? I am deeply grateful. Am I committed to fight for the causes I committed to fight for? You bet I am!"

Stood his philosophical ground
Lieberman called on Democrats to join together "across lines of party, race, ethnicity and gender" to reclaim the White House, and stood his ground on having taken positions at odds with his Democratic counterparts.

"I may not have shouted the loudest," he said, "but I'm proud I took the tough position in support of what I believe was right for our great country -- even when it wasn't popular."

Lieberman skipped Iowa, finished fifth in New Hampshire and had no chance of winning any of the seven contests Tuesday night. A senior Democratic official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lieberman planned to announce his departure Tuesday night.

Lieberman never was able to overcome a campaign crippled by a slow start, tepid fund-raising and a moderate message aimed at a mostly left-of-center electorate.

Using his vice presidential bid in 2000 as a springboard, Lieberman’s high name recognition pushed him to the front of early national polls last year. But while former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s candidacy caught fire last year and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., surged this year, Lieberman’s bid languished near the bottom of the field.

Ends distant fifth place
Lieberman had hoped for a strong, third-place finish in New Hampshire to propel him into Tuesday’s primaries, but he ended up a distant fifth. The poor finish fueled speculation, even among his closest supporters, that he was about to pull out of the race.

Instead, he forged ahead, hoping to pull out a win in Delaware with strong showings in Arizona and Oklahoma.

He fashioned his campaign after Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was able to capture a large independent vote in some of the early 2000 primaries. But that support never solidified for Lieberman, and as uncommitted voters began making up their minds, his support inched up only slightly.

Plagued with problems from the start, Lieberman had a first problem with his pledge to not run for president if former running mate Al Gore sought the nomination. The pledge, inspired by his gratitude to Gore for choosing him as running mate in 2000, put Lieberman months behind other candidates who were raising money and hiring top staff.

Supporters said Lieberman’s support for the war in Iraq also cost him votes, as did a low-key style that never captured the attention of Democrats hungry for a fighter to take on Bush.

Made history in 2000
A three-term senator, Lieberman, 62, rocketed to national fame on Aug. 7, 2000, when Gore made history and selected him as his vice presidential running mate.

CONNECTICUT SENATOR LIEBERMAN HANGS UP PHONE AFTER COMPLETING A RADIO INTERVIEW
Tim Shaffer  /  Reuters
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut hangs up the telephone after a radio interview on Tuesday at his campaign headquarters in New Castle, Del.
The dramatic choice made Lieberman the first Orthodox Jew to run on a major ticket, and faith played a key role in many of his speeches throughout the campaign. It also put a national spotlight on his religious practices and his longtime commitment to not campaign on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Democrats’ strong showing in Florida was credited to his presence on the ticket, but it wasn’t enough to deliver the presidency. Although Gore and Lieberman won the popular vote by about 500,000 ballots, they conceded the election after a tumultuous 36-day recount in Florida and a Supreme Court ruling that handed Bush the presidency.

Just last month, Gore delivered a major blow to his former running mate’s campaign by endorsing Dean. The slight briefly invigorated the campaign, but it was all too much for his stumbling campaign to overcome.

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