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Lamont Wins Connecticut Primary, Lieberman to Run as Independent

August 9, 2006 at 1:01 PM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Normally on the day after a primary election, one campaign continues, the other folds its tent. But as we’re seeing today, that’s not the case in Connecticut.

Ned Lamont, fresh off his come-from-behind defeat of three-term incumbent Senator Joseph Lieberman last night, was the most popular guy in the room today.

NED LAMONT (D), Candidate for U.S. Senate: We’re going to go forward, and I think we can change Washington, D.C., challenge the Bush administration, and put forward a strong, constructive alternative agenda of what he’s doing to this country.

GWEN IFILL: Connecticut Democrats turned out in record numbers yesterday, casting 52 percent of their votes for Lamont, 48 percent for Lieberman. But the race is far from over: Lieberman, who only six years ago was his party’s vice presidential nominee, submitted 18,000 signatures today to file for an independent run in November.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), Connecticut: I am in this race to the end. For me, it is a cause, and it is a cause not to let this Democratic Party that I joined with the inspiration of President Kennedy in 1960 to be taken over by people who are so far from the mainstream of American life that I fear we will not elect Democrats in the numbers that we should in the future.

Switching sides

GWEN IFILL: November's general election race would also include Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger, an attorney and former state representative.

But top Senate Democrats made it clear today that they were not interested in seeing the fight between Lamont and Lieberman continue. Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Campaign Committee Chief Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement, saying they "fully support Mr. Lamont's candidacy."

Connecticut's senior senator, Democrat Christopher Dodd, who campaigned with Lieberman until the end, switched course today and endorsed Lamont.

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), Connecticut: Joe Lieberman has been a good senator. He's served our state well over the years, and I'm confident that he can find tremendous results and success in whatever else he chooses to do.

He's made a decision to run as an independent. I regret that decision, but that was his decision to make. And, certainly, we'll have, I hope, a spirited campaign if he stays in it, but my hope would be that the voters in this state, Democrats, unaffiliated and Republicans, would see the importance of electing Ned Lamont.

GWEN IFILL: Connecticut Congressman John Larson also jumped from the Lieberman bandwagon.

REP. JOHN LARSON (D), Connecticut: Democrats across this state spoke. And they addressed the enthusiasm of a campaign that went directly after George Bush. We have three outstanding congressional candidates that that are running as well, and they have been going directly after George Bush. And yesterday's vote was an indictment against the Bush administration and the wrong direction that they've had this country headed in.

NED LAMONT: I'm Ned Lamont. I'm running for Senate.

The war in Iraq

GWEN IFILL: Lamont, a cable television executive from Greenwich, spent $4 million of his own fortune in the campaign. He used that money to boost his name recognition and to hammer away at Lieberman's support for the deeply unpopular war in Iraq.

NED LAMONT: Stay the course, that's not a winning strategy in Iraq, and it's not a winning strategy for America.

GWEN IFILL: Lamont was embraced by liberals disenchanted with President Bush. He exploited that anger by spotlighting a now-famous Bush-Lieberman embrace at the State of the Union. Late in the campaign, Lieberman attempted to recover his footing on the war, and polls show he regained some ground. But he said today there is yet more ground to gain.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: My opponent distorted my record enough in the midst of the -- Democratic primary voters who are against the war and against President Bush, that he appears to have made it successfully a referendum on the president and the war and not on which one of us could do a better job for our state and country going forward. And that is the discussion that I'm now going to continue.

GWEN IFILL: Lieberman is only the fourth incumbent senator to lose a primary election since 1980.