Shunned by his party, Schlesinger fights alone

Overshadowed by two Democrats whose primary battle has drawn national attention, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Schlesinger finds himself fighting for support from his own party.

Schlesinger said Saturday that he was told long before Sen. Joe Lieberman lost the Aug. 8 Democratic primary not to count on support from the national Republican Party unless he could show he had a shot to win.

“Since the primary, nothing’s changed,” he said.

Schlesinger would pull just 4 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Lieberman, who is now running as an independent, and Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont, according to a poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University in Hamden. His support slipped from 9 percent in July’s poll.

The telephone survey of 1,319 Connecticut voters from Aug. 10-14 has a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Though Lamont edged Lieberman by 10,000 votes in the primary — largely by criticizing the centrist senator’s support for the Iraq war — the new poll shows Lieberman attracting 53 percent of the likely voters to Lamont’s 41 percent.

Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, enjoys strong support from Connecticut’s Republican voters — the latest poll found that 75 percent supported him, as well as 53 percent of unaffiliated voters.

Lieberman’s support within the GOP ranks is such that Lamont spokesman Tom Swan has dubbed the incumbent “the de facto Republican” candidate.

Meanwhile, Schlesinger’s candidacy has mustered lukewarm responses from the White House and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has snubbed him. A spokesman said Thursday that the committee doesn’t intend to help Schlesinger because it’s not a competitive race.

Adding to Schlesinger’s campaign woes are revelations that he was sued by two New Jersey casinos for gambling debts and that he gambled at a Connecticut casino under a false name in the 1990s while a state legislator.

Schlesinger said he is trying to position himself as a fiscal conservative and will seek support from national groups in Washington, though he declined to identify them.

“I’m their only hope,” he said. “As our fiscal ship heads toward an iceberg, Lieberman and Lamont are arguing over which deck chair will get the best view. I’m going to try to grab the steering wheel and steer away because it takes a long time to avoid a catastrophe, and we’re heading toward one.”

Though Lieberman and Lamont — and most national organizations — are treating Schlesinger as a non-factor, he believes voters will support him once they get to know him. He is working on ads that he said will describe how the race has been “hijacked” by national interests on both sides of the aisle.

“I’m trying to get this race back from being a referendum on where the national Democratic Party is going and turn it back into a referendum on who will be senator in Connecticut for the next six years,” he said.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press