Sen. John McCain, trying to build momentum toward a reprise of his 2000 New Hampshire primary victory, is piling up high-profile endorsements, including one from another political maverick, Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
The Connecticut senator, an independent who was the Democrats’ 2000 vice presidential nominee, was scheduled to announce his support for McCain at a town hall meeting Monday morning in Hillsborough.
A Lieberman adviser said the senator decided to back McCain despite being a Republican because he believes his colleague from Arizona “has the best chance of uniting the country in its fight against Islamic terrorism.”
The adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in advance of the formal announcement, said Lieberman would continue to caucus with Senate Democrats, and said his decision was not a reflection of any lingering tension with his old party after high-profile Democrats abandoned him when he lost the Democratic primary during his 2006 Senate re-election campaign.
One 2008 White House contender, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, supported Lieberman in the primary, but said after he lost, “I’m going to just hope Senator Lieberman will take a hard look at this and do what is best for Connecticut and the Democratic Party.”
Another leading Democratic candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, donated $5,000 to the Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont, and sent an e-mail just before the general election saying, “Please join me in supporting Ned Lamont with your hard work on-the-ground in these closing weeks of the campaign.”
Lieberman subsequently won re-election with an independent candidacy and has since been the darling of many prominent Republicans, including former White House adviser Karl Rove, for pushing a hard line in support of the country’s war in Iraq. McCain also supports the war, calling it a critical battlefront in the fight against terrorism.
A top McCain aide said: “They are obviously very good friends. McCain helped him in his re-elect, and the significance of the support he will help attract to McCain cannot be overstated.”
The aide also spoke on the condition of anonymity prior to the Monday event, which the campaign generically advertised as “a major new endorsement.”
Word of the endorsement follows several other high-profile announcements for McCain, including weekend endorsements by The Des Moines Register and The Boston Globe.
McCain has largely ceded the Iowa caucuses to front-runners Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, but the Register said, “McCain is most ready to lead America in a complex and dangerous world and to rebuild trust at home and abroad by inspiring confidence in his leadership.”
The Globe, while not based in New Hampshire, circulates in New Hampshire’s vote-rich southern tier. McCain has focused his campaign on the Granite State, hoping to repeat his 2000 victory over George W. Bush.
“The iconoclastic senator from Arizona has earned his reputation for straight talk by actually leveling with voters, even at significant political expense,” the Globe wrote.
McCain has also picked up endorsements from The New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper, and The Portsmouth Herald.
“U.S. Sen. John McCain will tell you the truth, even if it costs him the election,” the Herald wrote.
McCain, campaigning Sunday in Florida, said he expected the endorsements would help him with undecided voters, especially registered Republicans.
“All of them say the same thing — that I have the experience and the judgment to lead this country and that I have been the one who is presidential,” the senator said. “Obviously that will help me as we get down in the last few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire primary, Michigan and South Carolina primaries and the Florida primary.”
Associated Press Writers Andrew Miga in Washington and Brendan Farrington in Fort Myers, Fla., contributed to this report.