Iraq War Tensions Challenge Lieberman's Senate Seat

Sen. Joe Lieberman's strong support of the war in Iraq and his sometime alliances with President Bush have become fodder for vocal liberal activists supporting anti-war businessman Ned Lamont as he challenges Lieberman for his Connecticut Senate seat.

Tonight the Connecticut Democratic Party will hold its annual convention. If Lamont wins 15 percent of the delegates' support, which is almost a certainty, Lamont will force Lieberman into a primary election this August.

At least one Lieberman-supporting delegate told ABC News it has been a tough decision to stand by Lieberman.

Anti-poverty activist Deidre Ierardi opposes the war in Iraq, but she'll support Lieberman tonight because she believes he has the best chance to win in November.

"It was an intellectual decision. If I went with my emotions I would be for Ned Lamont," Ierardi said. She said she's supporting Lieberman "based on the fact that he's the one who can win and that we need to take back the Senate."

Lieberman, as a Republican?

Lamont began running a television ad this week that calls Lieberman "President George W. Bush's lap dog."

"He's actually running against George Bush, not me," Lieberman told ABC News. "And [the fact that] he's trying to blend us together -- which based on my record -- is ridiculous."

Lieberman's scorecard with liberal interest groups shows he's still firmly in the Democratic camp.

The Liberal Americans for Democratic Action gives him a 75 percent rating. NARAL Pro-Choice America rates him as voting on its side 75 percent of the time; the American Civil Liberties Union, 83 percent of the time; the NAACP, 85 percent of the time; the League of Conservation Voters, 70 percent of the time; and the Children's Defense Fund, 89 percent of the time.

Nonetheless, Lamont's message resonates with liberal blogs such as the influential Daily Kos, and Kelly Monaghan's MyLeftNutmeg.com.

"Joe Lieberman is not a centrist; he's a right-wing wacko," Monaghan told ABC News.

Also on board with Lamont are liberal groups such as the National Organization for Women, which endorsed him this week because of Lieberman's vote to allow an up-or-down Senate vote on President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. Democracy for America, started by Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, has also thrown its support Lamont's way.

Dean's brother now runs the group and has endorsed Lamont while calling for change.

"Either Ned Lamont will be senator or Senator Lieberman will become a better Democratic senator," Dean said.

The bitterness and resentment in this race here in Connecticut will figure in other Democratic races across the country in the November midterm elections and in the 2008 race for president. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for instance, faces a primary challenge from an anti-war candidate.

"They are as mad at the Democrats as they are the Republicans," Lamont said. "They want the Democrats to stand up, be clear, be bold and put forth some constructive alternatives."

Lieberman said he shares Democrats' frustration.

"I share their anger on most of the things that make them angry," Lieberman said. "I'm angry about energy prices. I'm angry that we haven't done enough to become energy independent. I'm angry about the irresponsible tax policies."

But he doesn't share their anger on the No. 1 issue that has these liberal activists frustrated -- the Iraq War.

"Well, I don't," he said. "But the question is: What do we do now? And I think most everybody wants to get out of Iraq. The question is: When do we do it and how do we do it?"

Lieberman is still strongly favored to win the primary and the general election, but the angry left is making itself heard.

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