Can Lieberman Survive Iraq?

With bloggers, consituents and many party officials still angry about his support for the war, Connecticut's moderate Democratic senator is fighting for his political life

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Just six after his run for the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket, some in the party want to dump Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. The hawk has infuriated liberals at home and across the country with his support for the Iraq war, criticizing fellow Democrats for attacking the President's military policies. He voted last week against two Democratic proposals to set a timetable for a pullout from Iraq. Now his position on the war has created a big re-election battle for him: cable executive and political newbie Ned Lamont is challenging him in August's Democratic primary and winning support from voters who feel Lieberman has drifted too far to the right.

Lamont has been gaining ground--and backers--rapidly. George Jepsen, former chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party, last week endorsed Lamont. Financier George Soros and singer Barbra Streisand have donated to his campaign. The activist group MoveOn.org is pro-Lamont, and liberal blogs, led by the Connecticut site myleftnutmeg.com have been relentless in their attacks on Lieberman. All that has started to hurt the Senator. He still has a double-digit lead in most polls, but that lead has shrunk by nearly half in the past month.

While some on Lieberman's side want him to drop out of the primary and run as an independent to exploit his popularity among moderates in both parties, he plans to stay in the Democratic race. But he told TIME he might run as an independent if he loses. "I'm certainly not closing that option," he said, while expressing reluctance to leave the party that has been his political home for more than 30 years. Most of the party establishment doesn't want him to go: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are strong backers, and Delaware Senator Joe Biden will campaign for him this month.

Lieberman's biggest asset may be his incumbency. He and Lamont will have their first debate next week, and the Senator intends to focus on Lamont's inexperience. But Lamont plans to have plenty of opportunities in coming weeks to respond: worth more than $90 million, Lamont has already poured more than $1.5 million of his own money into the campaign and could spend millions more.

For more on the Lieberman-Lamont race, visit time.com