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Lieberman Puts the Emphasis on Faith

Campaign: He talks of country's 'moral health' on the first day of a marathon session through crucial states. He says difference between two tickets is 'night and day.'


LAS VEGAS — In a grueling, last-minute effort to win crucial support for the Democratic ticket, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman raced Sunday from the sun-washed canyons of the Southwest to the misty forests of the Northwest, rallying voters in the first half of a marathon two-day campaign swing.

Lieberman repeated his call for an infusion of more faith in public life, echoing the religious themes that he laid out when he kicked off his campaign for vice president in August.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee spoke at two African American churches in Las Vegas on Sunday morning, calling for a time when "our national prosperity is matched by our moral health."

"I think that we as a people need in our time to reaffirm our faith as the founders of this country did 224 years ago, not just in our hearts, but in our communities," Lieberman told about 200 congregants at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church, where he received several standing ovations.

"Not just in our private places of worship, but in our public spaces of conversation. Not just in our separate beliefs, but in our common commitment as Americans."

Lieberman, the first Jew on a major party ticket, has made religious faith a centerpiece of his campaign, urging Americans to embrace spiritual values to halt what he calls the pollution of society by gratuitous violence, sex and moral indifference. It has not been without controversy, as the Anti-Defamation League, among others, has called on him to curb his merging of the religious and the political.

He Urges Spiritual Solutions to Problems

On Sunday, he urged people to search out spiritual solutions for societal problems such as school violence, drugs and hate, citing the racially motivated dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Texas as "a profound spiritual problem."

"My experiences in this campaign have convinced me that this conversation about faith is a conversation that our nation needs to have," he said. "I'm ever more certain that we as leaders have to do more to help people understand the need to draw a line in a way that includes the best forces of faith in our public life, without excluding those who do not share our beliefs."

The around-the-clock pace of campaigning began over coffee and sweet rolls with locals in Albuquerque early Sunday morning. It would not end until election day, when Lieberman was scheduled to arrive home in New Haven, Conn., after stopping in 10 states, including a final joint predawn appearance with Gore in Florida on Tuesday.

The rigorous schedule started with a chaotic episode when the flight crew for the candidate's plane was grounded in Las Vegas, with most of the press corps, for a legally required rest stop. Lieberman, along with a few staff and two reporters, flew on to events in Portland and Seattle on a private jet while the rest of the traveling reporters were forced to take a commercial flight to Minneapolis.

Today, Lieberman is scheduled to appear in Wisconsin, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania before going to Florida.

Senator Calls for a 'Victory Lap'

On the trail Sunday, the Democratic vice presidential nominee pleaded with every voter to spur their friends and family to the polls at the finish of one of the closest presidential races ever.

"It's the last lap and with your help, it'll be a victory lap across America to the White House," he told a small clutch of supporters waiting to send him off at the Albuquerque airport Sunday morning, buffeted by the cold New Mexico wind.

In the waning campaign hours, the senator from Connecticut emphasized the differences between the two tickets, saying that "they are night and day."

"And let me just say, in case you have any doubt, Al Gore is the day!" added Lieberman, flanked by his wife, Hadassah, daughters Rebecca and Hana and daughter-in-law Ariela.

At the Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque, Lieberman chatted with early-morning diners, making small talk and talking policy.

"We've got a plan to move the economy forward," the senator told David Mishler, 33, who was surrounded by a clutch of reporters. "The other team would take us back to deficits, which won't be good for the economy."

Just then, Mishler's 5-year-old son, Gabriel, dove under the table.

"Where are you going?" the candidate asked with a laugh.

"He had enough of the press," Mishler said.

"There are moments when I feel like doing the same, myself," Lieberman said.

By the second stop Sunday, heading into the long campaign stretch on only a few hours of sleep, Lieberman stumbled a few times in his speech, saying once that he has been campaigning for 12 months, not 12 weeks. Trying to catch his breath in the midst of the fierce pace, he took a minute to pause during a church service in Las Vegas.

"I must say that with the hustle and the bustle and the madcap pace of the last days of a national campaign, it was a great pleasure to stand outside the door and hear the music and hear the faith and feel some calm and tranquillity," he said.

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