Joseph Lieberman, the leading Jewish politician in the US, was forced out of his party Tuesday, after losing the Connecticut Democratic primary race due to his support for the Iraq war and his close relations with President George Bush. Lieberman, who lost to Ned Lamont in a tight race, announced he will leave the Democratic Party and will run in the November elections as an independent, in attempt to keep his seat in the US Senate.
Lieberman's defeat, though expected, is seen as turning point for the Democratic Party and a first major victory for the anti-war liberal wing of the party. Joe Lieberman was targeted by the liberal bloggers in the party and later by his opponent Lamont for the backing he gave the Bush administration on the issue of the war in Iraq and for his stand that favored both the reasoning for the war and the need to keep US troops on the ground in Iraq. Lieberman's detractors also made use of a famous photo from the 2005 State of the Union address in which President Bush is seen kissing Lieberman on his cheek. This photo, distributed in thousands of copies and put on pins and stickers, served to enforce Lamont's argument that Lieberman has become too friendly with the Republican president and no longer represents the spirit of the Democratic Party.
For most of his campaign, Lieberman ignored Lamont's claims and only in the last week took on the issue, declaring that he is "a loyal democrat." Lieberman managed to minimize Lamont lead - which peaked at 13%, but eventually lost with 52% of Connecticut Democrats voting for Lamont and only 48% for him.
Joseph Lieberman has reached the highest ranks of the Democratic Party, running as a nominee for vice president in 2000. He also tried to win the party's nomination for president in 2004. The three term senator is an orthodox Jew who frequently speaks of his religious beliefs and sees a role for religious values in the political arena. Lieberman is also known as one of Israel's strongest supporters in the US Senate.
Political analysts in the US have pointed out that it is very unusual for an incumbent to lose his party's primaries and even more rare that a lawmaker who was on a national ticket will suffer such a defeat. According to analysts, the Democratic Party will now have to take into consideration the strong anti-war currents among its voters and may have to prefer liberal candidates over mainstream politicians who have not taken a stand against the Iraq war.
Lieberman himself is not giving up on the race and immediately announced he will be filing papers to run as an independent in the November mid-term elections. In his concession speech Lieberman said that "we've just finished the first half and team Lamont is in the lead," but he vowed to continue fighting promising that his team will emerge victorious from the November elections. Without wasting any time Lieberman immediately began to attack his opponent, blaming him for using "old polarizing partisan politics" and promising that he will keep on looking for the middle road and to fight divisiveness in American politics.
Ned Lamont, a TV business millionaire, is still considered to be an unknown figure in Connecticut politics. He enjoys the strong support of the anti-war activists in the party and is now expected to try and broaden his agenda and win over mainstream voters who are interested also in domestic issues.
According to pollsters and political analysts, the three way race in Connecticut is now open. The Republicans, who usually do poorly in this state, may take advantage of the split in the Democratic Party and take the lead, though most agree that the race will be between Democrat Lamont and Independent Lieberman, who may attract moderate Republican voters as well as Democrats who support him personally. Leaders of the Democratic Party, who campaigned for Lieberman and supported him in the primary race, announced Wednesday they will not back him as an independent and they will now shift their support to the elected Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.