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Lieberman spins Gore's support of Dean

Lieberman: “I feel like Howard Dean will take our party back where it was before Bill Clinton.”Lee Marriner / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Joe Lieberman said Friday that Al Gore’s surprise endorsement of Howard Dean in the Democratic presidential race gave a needed jolt to his struggling campaign in part by highlighting their differences in style and approach.

“It takes more than anger to win an election and govern,” Lieberman said in a conference call with reporters. Dean’s confrontational approach may be energizing core Democrats, the Connecticut senator said, but it’s threatening Democrats’ position as a mainstream party.

“Howard Dean says he wants to take America back, I want to take it forward,” Lieberman said. “I feel like Howard Dean will take our party back where it was before Bill Clinton. The Democratic Party is more than one wing. You can’t win with just one part of the party, you have to unite it.”

'Clearest choice
This week, in which the former vice president endorsed Dean over his running mate in the 2000 election and seven other hopefuls, has clarified the choice facing Democrats, Lieberman said.
“The clearest choice is between Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman,” he said.

Lieberman said another effect of the Gore endorsement has been to energize support for his candidacy — which has been lagging in the polls and fund-raising.

“I’m told we raised over $250,000 in the first day or two after the Gore decision,” he said. “We raised more money on the Internet than on any other day.”

Lieberman said he’s received support from people who felt Gore treated him unfairly after he delayed his own entrance into the race until Gore decided whether he would run. Gore’s endorsement of Dean has motivated him to work harder in the race, he said.

“It has doubled my determination to fight for what I know is right for my party and my country,” he said. “Sometimes unexpected events allow a candidate to show the voters what he’s made of.”

The 'Democratic wing'
Lieberman, the most moderate of the nine candidates for the nomination, said Thursday that the former Vermont governor’s claim to represent the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” won’t be enough to beat President Bush.

“The Democratic bird doesn’t fly with one wing. It needs all its wings,” he said.

He has said he was completely surprised to learn about Gore’s endorsement from news reports. Three years ago, Gore picked him for the vice presidential spot, and Lieberman showed his loyalty by not entering the 2000 race until Gore decided not to run.

Despite Lieberman’s financial gain this week, he has not matched the donations coming into the Dean campaign since Gore’s endorsement. Dean’s campaign asked supporters to donate $500,000 by midnight Friday as a “thank you” to Gore. The campaign said it had met the goal by Thursday afternoon.

The Lieberman campaign is aggressively pursuing goodwill. National finance chairman Elliot Gerson sent an e-mail to his top fund-raisers Thursday saying Gore’s endorsement has presented a “terrific opportunity” for them to step up their push for campaign cash.

“We all have to acknowledge that Howard Dean has a ticket to the finals,” Lieberman said Friday, “but I’m going to be there.”