MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In Connecticut, it appears that U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman is the comeback kid. Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont and angered many Democrats when he decided to run as an independent. Well now, according to the latest poll from Quinnipiac University, Joseph Lieberman has surged ahead and holds a 17 point lead over Lamont among likely voters.
John Dankosky of member station WNPR in Hartford joins us to explain what's happened. And John, it's interesting, if you look at that poll, to figure out where Joseph Lieberman is getting his support, he's getting a lot more support from Republican voters than the Republican candidate is.
JOHN DANKOSKY: It's what Joe Lieberman said the day that he lost the August primary to Ned Lamont. He wanted to go to all of Connecticut because he felt as though he had a message that would resonate very strongly with Republicans, and this poll says 70 percent of Republicans want Joe, and that it would resonate with the thousands and thousands of unaffiliated voters.
I mean, we made a big deal here in Connecticut about the fact that 10,000 people switched party affiliation because they were so excited about this primary race, but in actuality there's thousands more who are still unaffiliated and a lot of those are Joe Lieberman supporters.
BLOCK: Now the Democrat, Ned Lamont, won the primary largely on the issue of Joseph Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq, and that issue is still coming up in this campaign now. Let's take a listen to an ad that's running now. This features retired General Wesley Clark.
(Soundbite of political ad)
General WESLEY CLARK: Three and a half years into a failing mission in Iraq, Joe Lieberman can't seem to say we should change the course, and that's a real mistake. Reelect Joe Lieberman? Well, there's a word for it - mistake.
BLOCK: John, is that message, do you think, still getting traction in Connecticut?
DANKOSKY: I think it is. I think it's really the last, best hope for the Ned Lamont campaign to bring it back to Iraq. He did get away from using Iraq as his primary message, and I think coming back to it with Wesley Clark and talking about it with John Kerry on the campaign trail recently is, again, really his last chance to connect with voters. And the one reason that they know Ned Lamont, it's his opposition to Joe Lieberman's stance on Iraq.
BLOCK: And one thing that the Lieberman campaign seems to be a little concerned about, at least if you believe the radio jingle that we're about to hear, is the fact that his name will be very far down on the ballot, and there's some concern that voters won't be able to find him. Let's listen.
(Soundbite of political ad)
Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) The path to (unintelligible) is in the name, there's no room for political gain. Joe stood up for us every time, time to vote the bottom line.
Unidentified Man #2: This year, Joe Lieberman may be a little harder to find in the voting booth because he's running independently -
DANKOSKY: Joe has tried to bring this up in a couple of debates, and there has been a little bit of tension between him and the Democratic secretary of the state, Susan Bysiewicz, who had said right away that the Connecticut for Lieberman Party would be near the bottom of the ticket and actually, right afterward had proposed some - what she was calling sore loser legislation to try to keep people from doing this, from losing a primary and then coming back and running again in the general election.
So it'll be interesting to see whether or not people can actually find Lieberman on the ballot. I suppose they'll probably find his name. They've been looking for it for a number of years now.
BLOCK: This question has come up in this race, that if Joseph Lieberman is reelected, will he stay a Democrat or will he change parties? How has he responded to that?
DANKOSKY: He has said that he's going to stick with the Democratic Party. He's going to caucus with the Democrats, but a number of people I've talked to have said this does put him at an interesting position. If the Senate ends up very, very close, or either in slightly Republican or slightly Democratic control at the end of this mid-term, Joe Lieberman's going to find himself in an interesting place, where he's already viewed as this moderate who works between parties. Some people have heard him associated with either being part of Republican committees if they hold onto the Senate or even a possible place in a Republican administration, but he's never said anything that makes it sound like that's a real possibility.
BLOCK: John Dankosky, thanks very much.
DANKOSKY: Thank you.
BLOCK: John Dankosky is news director of member station WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.