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Connecticut Senate Primary Wins National Attention

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Connecticut Senate Primary Wins National Attention

Connecticut Senate Primary Wins National Attention

Connecticut Senate Primary Wins National Attention

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All eyes in the political world are on the Democratic primary contest in Connecticut between Sen. Joseph Lieberman and challenger Ned Lamont. The race appears to be a proxy vote on the war in Iraq. Steve Inskeep talks to Cokie Roberts about the race, and other political news.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This fall's election may be too tough for one Ohio Republican. Congressman Bob Ney is being quoted as saying he is dropping out of the race.

We're joined now by NPR News Analyst Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS reporting:

Good morning, Steve. Welcome back.

INSKEEP: Thank you, delighted to back. Why would Bob Ney quit now? It's not because I'm coming back, is it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: That's it. He couldn't take the heat, Steve.

Well, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, as you said earlier, and the Associated Press are reporting that he's out. He's been involved in this ongoing investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings in Washington. He has been cited as Representative Number One in the court documents, but no one is in the dark about who that is; it's Bob Ney. And he's under investigation for taking campaign donations, gifts, a trip from Abramoff and his clients. So it's been a very tough time for him.

Republicans have stayed by him since he hasn't been charged, but he's simply been waiting for the other shoe to drop. And his Democratic challenger Zack Space has raised considerably more money than he has. And he's getting out in order to let another Republican get in.

INSKEEP: So we've got a couple of races then where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle must be watching very closely for signs of their own fate.

ROBERTS: Well, that's right. The Connecticut primary tomorrow and this situation are very different. One is personal behavior, the other is a public policy debate. But what they have in common is what that voter you just heard in Brian Naylor's piece say, which is, it's time for a change.

And Ned Lamont, Joe Lieberman's challenger in Connecticut has not just been attacking Lieberman's record on the war, but he talks about the whole way business is done in Washington. And if Lieberman loses tomorrow, as many people think he might do, then that message is going to be heard very, very loud and clear here - that people are ready for change. And that is going to be hard for all incumbents, but it's especially hard for the party in power.

And you can certainly expect to see a lot of scrambling when the Congress comes back into session after the summer break, trying to find ways to appeal to the voters, to show them that, really, they're good guys after all. And all of that becomes somewhat chaotic.

INSKEEP: Well, what happens to the Democrats if Lieberman loses and he keeps a promise to run as an Independent if he loses?

ROBERTS: Well, many say that his support will, if he loses by a lot, that his support will dry up and his money will dry up. And prominent Democrats who have supported Lieberman, some of them said they'll support whomever is the Democratic nominee.

It's very tempting, though, for Lieberman to stay in because the Republican candidate, Schlesinger, is so weak. You know Connecticut back in 1970, had a preview of this election, where the Democratic anti-Vietnam War nominee Joe Duffey, was challenged by Tom Dodd the incumbent, as an Independent. They succeeded in electing Republican Lowell Weicker by splitting the Democratic vote. Lowell Weicker, by the way, is now supporting Ned Lamont.

But this Republican candidate is very weak, so it's tempting for Lieberman to stay in if he has the wherewithal, but he might not.

INSKEEP: Now, what about the other war? Might this election be affected at all by the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah?

ROBERTS: Well, I'm not sure that the election in Connecticut will be, except to the extent that it looks like all of foreign policy is, at the moment, a mess -and particularly in the Middle East. The secretary of state has worked over the weekend to put together a United Nations resolution, and the Americans and the French agreed, remarkably enough, but the Lebanese have not signed on.

And she tried - Secretary Rice tried - to say, let's vote first and then have a resolution in place that everyone has to agree to. But it looks like they were doing some reworking of that resolution before they bring it to the U.N. Security Council, because it's not quite ready to be passed.

INSKEEP: Okay, Cokie, thanks very much. That's NPR News Analyst Cokie Roberts who joins us every Monday morning.

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