President Bush isn't exactly eager to lend his support to the Republican nominee in Connecticut's tumultuous Senate race.
The White House was circumspect on Monday when asked whether Bush would support Republican Alan Schlesinger in the three-way fall contest that includes Democratic nominee Ned Lamont and three-term incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman.
"The president supports the democratic process in the state of Connecticut and wishes them a successful election in November," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
Bush routinely backs Republican candidates in races all across the country.
Lieberman has won praise from the Bush team for his unwavering support of the Iraq war and is seen by some Democrats as too close to the president. He began an independent bid to keep his seat after losing the Democratic primary last week to anti-war challenger and political newcomer Lamont.
Snow was asked whether Bush was balking at supporting Schlesinger because he liked Lieberman - or wanted to stay out of the contest because Schlesinger was trailing badly in the polls.
"There may be a whole host of reasons the president - I'm just not going to play," Snow replied.
He suggested the Connecticut race was unique.
"I think that there are some peculiar characteristics going on in the Republican Party with the Republican candidate," Snow said. "And why don't you wait and see what happens?"
Waiting it out
Schlesinger said he wasn't surprised by the White House's hesitancy. Republican leaders have been praising Lieberman and now they can't suddenly abandon him, he said.
"I don't think the Republican Party can turn around and say, 'Don't vote for Joe,'" Schlesinger said in a telephone interview. "We've got to let this thing die down a little."
Schlesinger said he was confident he could move up in the polls once some of the attention shifted away from the Lieberman-Lamont primary fight.
"When the Republican leadership in Washington also starts believing I have a shot, you'll see some support coming in," Schlesinger said.
Fighting the odds
Schlesinger is considered a longshot candidate. There has been speculation that Republicans might try to find a stronger candidate, but no names have emerged.
Schlesinger's campaign stumbled in July after it was learned that he used a fake name to gamble at a Connecticut casino and had been sued over gambling debts at New Jersey casinos. Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, urged him to drop out of the Senate race, but Schlesinger called the gambling a "non-issue" and stayed in.
In newly filed finance reports, Schlesinger, an attorney, said he has between $1 million and $3 million in various holdings, not including his personal residence.
His largest holding was a futures account valued between $500,001 and $1 million, according to the financial disclosure form he filed this month with the Senate. Other holdings include stocks, bank certificates of deposit and money market funds. Schlesinger also owns undeveloped land in Durham, Conn, and a single-family home in Milford that is not his primary residence.
He also listed mortgage debt and between $15,001 and $50,000 in credit card debt.