Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Wednesday afternoon formally confirmed what most of the political world already knew — that he will not seek a fifth term in 2012, ending a storied Capitol Hill career marked by a fierce independence that often put him at odds with the Democratic Party.
“This was not an easy decision for me to make because I have loved serving in the Senate and I feel good about what I have accomplished,” he said in prepared remarks delivered inside the Marriott in Stamford, Conn., roughly in the same area where he lived with his family in a cold-water flat as a young boy. “But I know it is the right decision and, I must say, I am excited about beginning a new chapter of life with new opportunities.”
The 68-year-old Senator largely brushed aside the looming political challenges that would have complicated any re-election effort.
“I know that some people have said that if I ran for re-election, it would be a difficult campaign for me. But what else is new? It probably would be,” Lieberman said.
“I have run many difficult campaigns before — from my first one in 1970 against the incumbent Democratic state Senate Majority Leader, to my 1988 campaign against the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator, to my campaign for re-election to the Senate in 2006 at the height of the controversy over the Iraq War. In all three of those elections, most observers and pollsters thought I would not win. But with a lot of help from independents, Democrats and Republicans — including many of you here today — in each case I did win. I’ve never shied from a good fight and I never will.”
It was widely believed that Lieberman had done irreparable damage to his one-time loyal Democratic base in recent years — most notably by leaving the party in favor of a successful Independent run after losing the 2006 Democratic primary.
News of his impending retirement announcement broke Tuesday night, the same day that Democratic candidates started lining up to challenge Lieberman. Longtime Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) announced her candidacy Tuesday, and Rep. Christopher Murphy (D) is likely not far behind.
Indeed, it was often a love-hate relationship for the left and Connecticut’s senior Senator, whose subsequent decision to caucus with Democrats allowed them to hold both a simple Senate majority and briefly a filibuster-proof majority. His position helped Lieberman secure and hold the gavel of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, even after he endorsed GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 and was among the featured speakers at that year’s Republican National Convention. He also helped former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin prepare for the vice presidential debate.
“Lieberman’s poll numbers were disastrous in Connecticut. His decision to quit in the face of assured defeat is a huge victory for the progressive movement and all Americans who want Democrats to put regular families ahead of corporate interests,” said Keauna Gregory, senior field organizer with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Gregory was already on the ground in Connecticut “ready to pounce” on Lieberman should he run, the liberal group said.
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