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Lieberman losing ground in primary, poll shows

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman said Thursday that he hopes a new poll showing his primary challenger with a double-digit lead will "shake up" his supporters and help him eke out a victory.

Lieberman also said he will run as an independent if he loses the Democratic primary on Tuesday, despite reservations being voiced by some national party leaders.

"But I intend to win the primary," he quickly added.

Lieberman, 64, one of the Senate's most well-known moderate Democrats and his party's nominee for vice president in 2000, has been widely criticized for his support of the Iraq war and his perceived closeness with President Bush.

Millionaire businessman Ned Lamont, a political novice, was supported by 54 percent of likely Democratic voters in the Quinnipiac University poll, compared to Lieberman's 41 percent. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

"The fact is I'm about a lot more than one issue and the future of the people of Connecticut is about a lot more than one issue," Lieberman said during a campaign stop in West Hartford. "You always hope that a poll like this will shake up my supporters to come out and vote."

A similar survey July 20 showed Lamont with a slight advantage for the first time in the campaign.

Lamont, 52, who owns a cable TV firm, has been able to tap into voters' frustration with Lieberman as well as his personal wealth — he has contributed $3 million to his own campaign.

Lamont, who spent the afternoon rallying with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Middletown, called the poll "pretty good." But he said "what makes a difference is Tuesday and getting out the vote."

The poll highlighted a significant backlash among Democrats: 65 percent of Lamont's supporters said their stance was mainly due to antipathy toward Lieberman.

Poll director Douglas Schwartz said he had never seen a race where an incumbent has stirred up such negativity within his own party.

Lieberman has been collecting signatures to petition his way onto the ballot as an independent candidate should he lose Tuesday's primary.

Unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats and Republicans in the state, and Lieberman has typically drawn strong support from both unaffiliated voters and Republicans.

The latest poll did not examine how Lieberman and Lamont would fare if Lieberman ran as an independent in the general election.

But a July 20 poll found that among Connecticut voters across the political spectrum, 51 percent supported Lieberman, 27 percent supported Lamont, and 9 percent supported Republican Alan Schlesinger.

Lieberman recently called on former President Clinton to visit the state, and Clinton's endorsement has been used in the campaign's televised ads.

But that apparently had little effect on voters. Of those who supported Lieberman, 78 percent said Clinton was not the reason why.

The telephone survey of 890 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted July 25-31.