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Top Democrats throw support to Lamont

WASHINGTON - Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., threw their support behind Connecticut upset winner Ned Lamont this morning.

Both senators issued a joint statement this morning on the Connecticut Senate race, saying, in part, "The Democratic voters of Connecticut have spoken and chosen Ned Lamont as their nominee. Both we and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) fully support Mr. Lamont's candidacy. Congratulations to Ned on his victory and on a race well run."

They laid the blame for incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman's loss on his connection to President George W. Bush, saying, "Joe Lieberman has been an effective Democratic Senator for Connecticut and for America. But the perception was that he was too close to George Bush and this election was, in many respects, a referendum on the President more than anything else. The results bode well for Democratic victories in November and our efforts to take the country in a new direction."

In addition, reiterating a point he's made before, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel said that Lieberman's loss was "a referendum about being a rubber stamp" for the Bush Administration, although he made clear that Lieberman being a rubber stamp is more of a perception than a reality. "Voters are angry about the course we're on," he said in a conference call with reporters. "They want change. They want a new direction."

Emanuel also stressed that last night's primary is bad news for three Republican congressmen in Connecticut -- Chris Shays, Nancy Johnson, and Rob Simmons -- whom Democrats are targeting in November. He said the three "have all been rubber stamps for George Bush's policies... The are defending the status quo." And he argued that Lieberman's declaration to keep his candidacy alive as independent in November could actually help Democrats defeat these three Republicans. "You will increase the turnout," he said. "I think that's an asset."

Asked if he would call on Lieberman to drop out of the race, Emanuel said no. "That is up to Joe Lieberman to do."

Republicans quickly offered their own take on Lieberman's defeat to Lamont: that it signals a retreat by Democrats on being strong on national security issues.

"It reflects an unfortunate embrace of isolationism, defeatism, and a ‘blame America first’ attitude by national Democratic leaders at a time when retreating from the world is particularly dangerous," said Ken Melhman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, at a speech this morning in Cleveland.

Mark Murray covers politics for NBC News.