Facing a stronger-than-expected Democratic primary challenge and sagging poll numbers because of his support of the Iraq war, Sen. Joe Lieberman said Monday he’ll collect signatures to run as an unaffiliated candidate if he loses next month’s primary.
“While I believe that I will win the Aug. 8 primary, I know there are no guarantees in elections,” Lieberman told reporters on the steps of Connecticut’s statehouse. “No one really knows how many Democrats will come out to vote on what may be a hot day in August.”
Lieberman said he will still be running as a Democrat even if he’s not the party’s nominee and plans to remain part of the Democratic caucus in the Senate if re-elected.
“I want the opportunity to put my case before all the people of Connecticut in November,” Lieberman said.
Once a Democratic stalwart and the party’s 2000 vice presidential nominee, Lieberman has fallen into disfavor from some Democrats for his support of the Iraq war and his perceived closeness to President Bush.
Lieberman is being challenged for a fourth Senate term by Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont, a multimillionaire owner of a cable television company with little political experience. Lamont has put more than $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign, calling Lieberman a Republican lapdog and accusing him of straying from his Democratic roots.
The strategy has been effective. A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Lamont gaining ground among likely Democratic voters, although Lieberman maintains high ratings among Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Unaffiliated voters are the state’s largest voting bloc, followed by Democrats and Republicans.
Lieberman would have until Aug. 9 — the day after the Democratic primary — to collect 7,500 signatures from registered voters to land on the November ballot as an unaffiliated candidate. Experts have said his petition drive during the primary could further annoy Democrats who already question his party loyalty.