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Lieberman's Senate Bid Builds as Issue


UNION, N.J. — Democrat Joseph I. Lieberman on Tuesday went about the business of getting elected vice president, even as pressure increased on him to drop out of his concurrent reelection bid in Connecticut.

As Lieberman raised an additional $2 million for the Democratic Party, some of his colleagues in Washington were trying to organize an effort to persuade Lieberman to abandon his Senate campaign and allow the party to nominate someone else before election day.

But Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota had "strenuously" urged Lieberman's peers to let the vice presidential nominee make the call.

"This is a personal matter for Sen. Lieberman," said Daschle, who added that he supports Lieberman's decision to continue his reelection bid.

"He's not about to change his mind," Daschle said.

The sentiment for Lieberman to step aside in the Connecticut campaign has grown in response to increasing optimism among Democrats that they can win control of the Senate in the fall. Republicans control the chamber, 54 to 46.

The nightmare scenario for Senate Democrats is that they score a net gain of four seats but that Lieberman wins both his Senate race and the vice presidency. Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, a Republican, then would chose Lieberman's successor, which presumably would restore the GOP to a 51-49 edge in the Senate.

A Democrat who asked not to be identified said the sentiment for Lieberman to resign was shared by an "overwhelming majority" of Senate Democrats.

"There's a general sentiment in the caucus that we're very close to taking the Senate back," said a top Democratic aide. "If he doesn't step down, it would hurt our chances."

Lieberman said Monday that he had been urged to stay in the Senate race by Connecticut Democrats who had predicted "chaos" if he leaves. On Tuesday, Lieberman campaign spokeswoman Kiki McLean said the senator had not discussed leaving the race.

"He's experienced great support from his colleagues," she said.

Lieberman himself did not take questions from reporters on Tuesday, instead following a schedule that featured a speech to senior citizens, an address to a bricklayers convention in Atlantic City, N.J., and three lucrative fund-raisers.

Among the fund-raisers was a $500,000 dinner at the home of Revlon magnate Ronald O. Perelman and his wife, actress Ellen Barkin. That gathering was played down by Lieberman's aides Tuesday. Lieberman has been an outspoken critic of Hollywood sex and violence, but Republicans have lambasted him as a hypocrite for helping to collect millions from the industry recently on behalf of the Democratic Party.

Actor Michael J. Fox and his wife, Tracy Pollan, attended Perelman's fund-raiser. Standing on a cowhide ottoman in a room with original works of art by Joan Miro and Willem de Kooning, Lieberman thanked his host and acknowledged Barkin, the film siren whose credits include "Sea of Love" (1989) and "The Big Easy" (1987).

At the Union Township Senior Citizen Center--where a diminutive 77-year-old Bernice Kessler introduced Lieberman as a man who is "just as beautifully delicious in person as he is on television"--the nominee offered an invigorated swipe at the Medicare plan proposed by GOP nominee George W. Bush.

"It will fritter the surplus we've all earned on a giant tax cut," Lieberman said. "Their plan is not a real plan. It's a real problem for real people."

The comment was meant as a gibe at Bush, who has characterized his policy pronouncements as "real plans for real people."


Times political writer Cathleen Decker contributed to this article.

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