Lamont Campaigns for Obama
By Robin Shulman
Looking ahead to Super Tuesday, the question arises: Whither Ned Lamont, the antiwar, antiestablishment Connecticut would-be U.S. senator who won the Democratic primary in 2006?
Though Lamont failed to beat Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, in the general election, after that race ended he used his antiwar cachet to campaign for a handful of New England Democrats. He also campaigned for Sen. Chris Dodd until his withdrawal from the presidential race a few weeks ago.
That's when Lamont threw his support to Sen. Barack Obama, and became his campaign cochairman in Connecticut, which goes to the polls on Feb. 5. This past Tuesday morning, Lamont played Obama in a mock debate he'd organized at Central Connecticut State University, where he is an adjunct professor. Tonight, Lamont will host Michelle Obama at a fundraising reception at a Greenwich home.
"I've fallen for him," said Lamont of Obama. "I like the fact that he brings a fresh perspective to Washington. I love the idea he gives us a fresh start around the world," he said. "He just seems to be able to bring people together."
But Obama has not brought together all of Lamont's onetime supporters. His former campaign chairman, George Jepsen, also the former majority leader of the state senate, has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"We've had some friendly jousting about that," said Jepsen. "He said, 'You're back in the establishment.' I countered with something about 'The experienced candidate knows what they're doing.'"
The splintering stretches down through the ranks of onetime Lamont supporters, said former campaign manager Tom Swann: most support Obama, but many support Clinton and also Sen. John Edwards.
Lamont said the leading candidates in this Democratic primary aren't divided by a great gulf on policy -- unlike when he ran against Lieberman on a passionate antiwar platform -- and so individual preferences come more into play.
In a Jan. 9-17 poll by the Hartford Courant/University of Connecticut, 41 percent of voters said they would choose Hillary Clinton; 27 percent said they would choose Obama; 9 percent said Edwards. But 23 percent were still undecided.
Statewide, state representatives and state senators, local mayors and Democratic party state reps, have divided between Clinton and Obama.
Lamont, like many Connecticut politicians, has a history with the Clintons. In the summer of 2006, he said, he visited Hillary at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., where she offered consulting help for his campaign.
He didn't make endorsement decisions based on his campaign, Lamont said, but based on his view that Obama's presidency could be "transformative."
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