Lieberman's late-morning visit to a Waterbury pizza joint — his first public appearance since losing Tuesday's primary and his first since dismissing his campaign staff — was to thank Waterbury for its fervent support during the primary. Lieberman won 60 percent of the vote here in his narrow loss to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont.
But it's also notable because Waterbury last year re-elected a mayor, Michael Jarjura, who lost his Democratic primary but won the general election in a write-in campaign.
"I think in a primary you are dealing with a very limited audience," Jarjura said. "Unfortunately, here in Connecticut, the Democratic Party has shifted, I think wrongly, too far to the left and that limited audience does not reflect the majority view of the people of the state of Connecticut. That was very evident in my election, and I think it will be extremely evident in Joe Lieberman's re-election in November."
Although top Senate Democrats, including John Kerry and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Harry Reid of Nevada, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Chuck Schumer of New York, are throwing their support to Lamont, Lieberman filed petitions Wednesday to mount an independent campaign.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is also making the switch, even though she, like her longtime ally Lieberman, supported President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, CBS News correspondent Trish Regan reports.
"I've already spoken to Ned Lamont. I've already offered him financial help as well as any other help that he needs," Clinton said.
Even Lieberman's hometown newspaper, the New Haven Register, called for Lieberman to step aside, saying his campaign will divide the Democratic Party.
"The primary vote should have told Lieberman that he was out of touch with the state that he had taken too much for granted," read an editorial Thursday. "Until almost the closing days of the election, he seemed unable to gauge the deep anger of Democrats over the war in Iraq and his support for it."
Mr. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, denied reports Thursday that he offered Lieberman help from the White House in the election's final hours.
"I called him. He's a personal friend, and I called him Tuesday afternoon, five o'clock thereabout, and wished him well on his election that night," Rove told reporters traveling with the president to Wisconsin. "It was a personal call. Look, Harry Reid has been at my house for dinner, so I actually do have acquaintances and friendships on the other side of the aisle. So I called him and wished him well."
U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, the GOP Minnesota Senate candidate, threw his support Thursday behind Lieberman's re-election campaign.
"While very liberal Democrats have decided that they don't want Joe Lieberman in their party, America definitely needs men of Joe Lieberman's stature in the United States Senate," Kennedy said.
On Wednesday, Lieberman told The Associated Press that he was compelled to press his independent campaign.
"While I consider myself a devoted Democrat, I am even more devoted to my state and my country," Lieberman said in an interview with The Associated Press one day after his stunning loss. "I think it would be irresponsible and inconsistent with my principles if I were to just walk off the field."
Lieberman said he fired his campaign manager and spokesman, and asked for the resignations of his campaign staff. He planned to hire two longtime aides as campaign manager and communications director and to begin the search for a new pollster and media consultant.
"I do not blame my staff for my loss on Tuesday. I bear that responsibility," Lieberman said. "But now that we are entering a new and very different phase of the campaign, I wanted to bring in a new team."