Lieberman faces poll defeat after backing Iraq conflict

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The Independent US

The political fate of Joe Lieberman, the Democratic senator who in 2000 was the vice-presidential running mate of Al Gore, may be decided tomorrow when Connecticut goes to the polls to vote on an unexpectedly tight and hard-fought primary contest.

A three-term senator, Mr Lieberman has long been popular in Connecticut, and until a few months ago could have assumed an easy re-election. But that was before Ned Lamont, a cable television tycoon from Greenwich, took him on for the right to run for the Democrats for the Connecticut Senate seat this November.

Watched from across the country, the contest has been turned into a referendum on Mr Lieberman's support for the Iraq war, and by extension on the war itself and the manner of its prosecution by George Bush. A poll last Thursday showed he trailed Mr Lamont by a daunting 13 points.

Mr Lieberman, 64, announced several weeks ago that if he was defeated by Mr Lamont, he would register as an independent and fight to remain in the Senate anyway. Analysts gave him a decent chance of winning in the general election in a three-way race with Mr Lamont and a weak Republican candidate. But a heavy loss tomorrow could put that assumption in doubt.

Yesterday, on ABC, Mr Lieberman lamented the focus on the war by Mr Lamont, claiming his support had been unfairly inflated. "I've been scapegoated... because I have not hesitated to criticise the conduct of this war," he said. "My opponent is essentially saying: use this primary to vote against George Bush. But I'm not George Bush."

On the same programme Mr Lamont, a political novice who was barely known beyond his home town until earlier this year, said: "Those that got us into this mess should be held accountable."