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Lamont increases lead over Lieberman

By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor

Sen. Joe Lieberman has been heavily criticized by liberals for his support for the Iraq war.

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Joe Lieberman

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Embattled Sen. Joe Lieberman is trailing businessman Ned Lamont by double digits in the race for the Connecticut Democratic Senate nomination, a new poll released this morning shows.

The Quinnipiac University poll gives Lamont a 54 percent to 41 percent lead among likely Democratic primary voters and is the latest indication that the three-term incumbent is in serious danger of losing the Democratic primary next Tuesday. A poll released by the university on July 20 indicated that Lamont held a 51 percent to 47 percent advantage over Lieberman.

"Sen. Lieberman's campaign bus seems to be stuck in reverse," Quinnipiac University Polling Director Douglas Schwartz said in statement accompanying the poll's release. "Despite visits from former President Bill Clinton and other big name Democrats, Lieberman has not been able to stem the tide to Lamont."

But Schwartz added that with five days remaining, Lieberman still has time to turn things around.

What was once considered an easy re-election for Lieberman has turned into his toughest campaign since he defeated incumbent Sen. Lowell Weicker (R) in 1988. This year, Lamont has built his challenge against Lieberman on the Senator's support for the Iraq war. Lamont has been aided in his bid to defeat Lieberman by the Democratic "net roots," an increasingly influential liberal wing of the Democratic Party that interacts over the Internet.

While both camps took note of today's poll, spokeswomen for each candidate said they are focused on Tuesday.

"The only vote that counts, is the one on August 8," Liz Dupont-Diehl, Lamont's spokeswoman, said in an interview with the Grind. "We do hope this energizes our base and shows them this is possible."

Marion Steinfels, Lieberman's spokeswoman, said despite this latest poll, Tuesday's outcome is still up in the air.

"This race is very fluid and when it comes down to it, no one can predict what is going to happen next Tuesday," Steinfels told the Grind. "That's why we are working night and day and fighting our hearts out to make sure that Joe Lieberman wins on Primary Day."

Even if he doesn't win the primary, Lieberman has vowed to soldier on into the November general election -- running an independent campaign for re-election. But should Lieberman lose, it is unclear how much support he would receive from Democratic Party leaders or even his colleagues. Already, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) has said she would support the winner of the August 8 primary. For now, Sen. Clinton has publicly endorsed Lieberman in the primary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton recently campaigned on his behalf. Others such as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and former Vice President Al Gore -- who chose Lieberman as his running mate in the 2000 presidential contest -- have refused to back Lieberman in the primary.

As of now, it looks like Lieberman would win re-election in a three way general election contest if he launched an independent bid. Former Derby Mayor Alan Schlesinger is running for the GOP Senate nomination, although there is a move by some party leaders to recruit a stronger Republican challenger into the race.

The mud slinging ends in Tennessee

A brutal primary battle for the Republican Senate nomination comes to an end today in Tennessee, as voters head to the polls to choose their candidates for November. Two former congressmen and a former Chattanooga mayor are competing for the GOP Senate nomination to take on the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.

The race to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), who is retiring and considering a run for president, has taken on national implications as Democrats would need to win this seat and five others to wrest control of the Senate from Republican hands.

"To take control of the Senate (Democrats) have to run the table which includes picking up this Republican leaning open state," said Amy Walter, senior editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "If we think about the ability of the Democrats to take control of the Senate they can't do that just by beating a couple of incumbents."

For Republicans, there are concerns that this bruising Republican primary could leave the winner weakened heading into the general election. Each of the candidates aired negative ads and former Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary have questioned former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker's conservative credentials. Corker is the favorite to win the nomination, but as is in any campaign turnout is the key and Van Hilleary or Bryant could emerge as the winner at the end of the day.

So far, more than $5 million has been spent by the three Republicans and Ford on television advertisements, with Corker accounting for them than $3.2 million. Bryant has spent about $700,000, Van Hilleary about $600,000 and Ford a little more than $800,000.

Evan Tracey of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending, suggested that Corker's advertising dollars have been well spent.

"Corker's spending advantage is paying off in the polls," Tracey said. "If he wins, however, he'll have some repair work to do because Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant have spent the last 30 days attacking Coker's character and record on core conservative issues like immigration and abortion. Ford has had a free run thus far and has spent wisely of issue in the news like energy prices and port security."

Ford's decision to run for Senate has created very crowded Democratic and Republican contests to fill this Memphis based House seat.

The sweeteners

All this week there has been a high stakes, behind the scenes battle between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as they hunt for a few crucial votes on the last big vote of the summer, CNN's Dana Bash reports.

The question is whether the GOP gamble to link minimum wage with the estate tax will pay off.

Last time the estate tax cut came before the Senate, Republicans were just three votes shy of the 60 they needed to pass the bill. In order to get those votes this time, Bash tells us that Republicans have added some sweeteners beyond just a minimum wage hike. They are putting specific provisions into the bill that are designed to make it hard for some Democrats to vote against it.

To lure Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), the GOP has added a provision to help clean up coal mines and pay for health care for miners. Byrd, who is running for re-election, could be in a tough spot.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) said that he really is torn over what to do. Republicans put a rural bonds provision in the bill to target him.

For Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Republicans added a tax break on lumber. A Democratic source tells Bash she is leaning towards voting against the measure, but she too is up for re-election.

It is going to go down to the wire. The vote was planned for Friday, but with the smell of jet fumes lingering in the Senate hallways, a vote could happen later today. The betting now is that it won't pass, but it is still too close to call to make a definitive prediction.

The Rumsfeld grilling

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is testifying this morning on Capitol Hill about the war in Iraq, after initially refusing to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Tune in to CNN throughout the day to for updates to this developing story.

DAYAHEAD/Events making news today

  • President Bush heads home today to tour the border and then deliver a speech on immigration reform. He arrives at McAllen-Miller International Airport in McAllen at 2:50 p.m. ET to tour Border Patrol and National Guard assets. At 3:30 p.m. ET, the President "views a demonstration of Border Patrol National Guard Skybox" in Mission, Texas. He then delivers his speech at 3:55 p.m. ET at Anzalduas County Park. Following his speech, Bush heads to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET and resumed consideration of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill.The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook:
  • The House is in recess until September 6. The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook:
  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) hold a 3 p.m. ET conference call to discuss the political implications of the GOP minimum wage plan.
  • The Republican National Committee holds its annual summer meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and (R) and White House Political Director Sara Taylor address the meeting at 5 p.m. ET.
  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends a fundraiser for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus at 7 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City.

    Compiled by CNN's Xuan Thai

    Rumsfeld, in Reversal, Agrees to Testify at Senate Hearing. Under criticism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reversed course late Wednesday and agreed to testify Thursday at a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Signs of simmering tensions between Mr. Rumsfeld and some members of the committee had emerged earlier in the day when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, sent him a letter expressing frustration at his decision not to testify. NY Times: Rumsfeld, in Reversal, Agrees to Testify at Senate Hearing

    An Estate Tax Twist Reverses Party Roles On Minimum Wage. For years, organized labor has worked hard to raise the minimum wage, while business groups have campaigned to block such a change. This week in the Senate, however, the AFL-CIO is pushing to kill the wage increase while practically the entire business lobby is demanding that it pass. The reversal is the product of election-year politics and clever -- critics say devious -- legislative packaging that has been dubbed the "trifecta." In the same bill, senators are being asked to raise the minimum wage (the liberals' goal), cut the estate tax (the conservatives' objective) and approve a laundry list of popular, though narrowly targeted, tax breaks. Washington Post: An Estate Tax Twist Reverses Party Roles On Minimum Wage

    Senate Bill Lifts Hopes of Big Oil Offshore. Big oil has been pressing Congress for years to expand its rights to drill for domestic offshore oil and gas, with little to show for its efforts. But with tensions in the Middle East and gasoline prices at home rising, the industry's fortunes on Capitol Hill may be changing. Both houses of Congress have now passed legislation on new exploration, and though the bills differ, any final version is expected to liberalize offshore drilling for the oil companies.NY Times: Senate Bill Lifts Hopes of Big Oil Offshore

    Senators Get Ready to Rumble. Republican and Democratic Senators sought to stake out ground in their upcoming monthlong battle for the majority on Wednesday, using the Washington, D.C., megaphone one last time to build early momentum for their messages to voters. As GOP Senators ramped up their case for remaining in charge by touting a laundry list of accomplishments from the 109th Congress, Democrats continued their election-year push for a "New Direction for America"  the party's platform for a prospective majority. Roll Call: Ready to Exit on a Feisty Note

    Senate votes to fund the fence. The Senate did an abrupt about-face yesterday, voting overwhelmingly to begin paying for 370 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, just three weeks after voting against the same spending. The amendment's sponsor said senators were so embarrassed by that July 13 vote that most felt they had to reverse course and vote for it this time -- especially after so many were on record in May voting to build the fence in the first place. The amendment, which provides nearly $2 billion for the project, passed 94-3, with 66 senators switching from "no" to "yes" votes since last month. Washington Times: Senate votes to fund the fence

    Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts. Former White House adviser Claude A. Allen is expected to plead guilty tomorrow to a misdemeanor theft charge after reaching a deal with Montgomery County prosecutors that probably will spare him from jail, according to court documents filed yesterday. As part of the agreement, Allen's attorneys and Montgomery prosecutors plan to recommend to a District Court judge in Rockville that Allen be given an $850 restitution fine. Washington Post: Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts

    Future of Orthodox Jewish Vote Has Implications for GOP. Republicans are hoping a strong defense of Israel translates into greater support among Jewish voters this fall, but the biggest political benefits are likely to come long after the 2006 campaign concludes, according to political and demographic experts studying Jewish voting trends. The Jewish group proving most receptive to Republican overtures over the past decade is among the smallest: Orthodox Jews. Right now, they account for roughly 10 percent of the estimated 5.3 million Jews in the United States, hardly enough to tip most elections. Washington Post: Future of Orthodox Jewish Vote Has Implications for GOP

    Rangel Plans Exit if Party Fails

    Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of New York's Congressional delegation, said on Wednesday that he would leave Congress if Democrats failed to win control of the House of Representatives in the fall elections. In an interview, Mr. Rangel, a Democrat from Harlem, expressed exasperation at the prospect that Americans might vote to keep Republicans in power yet again given what he said was the troubling direction the nation has taken. NY Times: Rangel Plans Exit if Party Fails

    Lieberman Uses Rival's Wealth as Issue in Race. His great-grandfather was J. P. Morgan's right-hand man and partner. His great-uncle ran the American Civil Liberties Union. The main undergraduate library at Harvard bears the family's name. So does an earth science observatory at Columbia University and a dormitory at Smith College. Now, as Ned Lamont campaigns to unseat United States Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in next week's Democratic primary, his wealth and family pedigree have become an issue in one of this year's most closely watched election campaigns. Facing his first serious challenge in 18 years as a senator, Mr. Lieberman has sought to brand Mr. Lamont as a wealthy dilettante who is trying to buy his way into office, and who is out of touch with ordinary Americans. One of Mr. Lieberman's first advertisements began: "Meet Ned Lamont. He's a Greenwich millionaire." NY Times: Lieberman Uses Rival's Wealth as Issue in Race

    Nevada campaigns get personal. Nevada's wide-open race for governor is being fought with sock puppets, cardboard cutouts, "Star Wars" parodies and Internet close-ups of an elephant's backside. With no incumbent in the race and no hand-picked successor to popular Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, the Democrats and the Republicans are locked in primary contests that have given rise to zany personal attacks and not much debate on the issues Washington Times: Nevada campaigns get personal

    Politics Goes on Vacation. The new cable network Plum TV, playing in a number of high-end vacation destinations, recently debuted a program to show the personal side of America's most influential people in politics. "Beyond Politics," hosted by author Stan Pottinger, aims to "personify people that too often get pigeonholed into one or two quotes" by holding one-on-one, informal conversations, said producer Graham Veysey. So far, Plum has aired two episodes, one with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the other with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Roll Call: Politics Goes on Vacation

    The Morning Grind

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