President George W. Bush gave a boost to Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s re-election bid as an independent by taking the rare step of refusing to endorse the Republican candidate running for Lieberman’s U.S. Senate seat.
“We are not making any endorsement in Connecticut. The Republican party of Connecticut has suggested that we not make an endorsement in that race and so we’re not,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow.
It is highly unusual for a sitting president not to endorse a Senate candidate from his own party and suggests the depth of the political machinations over Lieberman’s Senate seat after his defeat in last week’s Democratic primary by Ned Lamont, a well financed challenger running on an anti-Iraq war platform.
Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, has vowed to launch an independent bid to retain his seat.
The little-known Republican candidate in Connecticut’s Senate race, Alan Schlesinger, trails both Lieberman and Lamont in the polls.
Snow would not say why the Bush would not endorse Schlesinger, but other White House officials have made known their displeasure with him as a candidate and the Connecticut Republican Party has urged him to drop out of the race.
There were published reports last month that Schlesinger had once run up large gambling debts and had gambled under an assumed name.
“There have been races in the past where candidates didn’t meet the expectations of the local parties and presidents have stayed out, Democrats and Republicans in the past,” Snow said.
The White House has said Bush will not support Lieberman’s re-election bid because Lieberman has made clear he will vote Democratic.
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