Former U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman compared liberal Democrat Jonathan Pelto to former presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Tuesday while discussing this year’s competitive race for Connecticut governor.
Lieberman said he had not been following the governor’s race very closely, but he spoke about Nader as a third-party challenger for president 14 years ago.
“If I can be probably more direct than I should – you’re looking at someone who was part of a ticket in 2000 that got a half million more votes than the other ticket nationally,” Lieberman told reporters Tuesday at the state Capitol complex. “One of the reasons that was so close in Florida, I believe, was that there was a third-party candidate named Ralph Nader. Arguably, if Ralph had not been in the race, Al Gore and I would have won more clearly in Florida. What I’m saying is third-party candidates can affect the outcome of elections. That’s the point of it.”
“I’ve heard people argue quite convincingly, who seem to be the kind of analysts who know, that the majority of the Nader votes would have gone to Al Gore and me,” Lieberman said. “But who will ever know?”
Lieberman, who served for 24 years in the U.S. Senate, added, “But that’s history. But we had a good time, didn’t we? Until election night, we had a great time in that campaign.”
Some Democrats fear that Pelto, a former state legislator who represented Storrs, could peal off enough Democratic votes from Malloy that a Republican could win the election in a tight race in November. Malloy is currently tied with Greenwich business executive Tom Foley in the latest Quinnipiac University poll at 43 percent each. A race against Foley would be a rematch of the 2010 battle, which Malloy won by 6,400 votes in the closest gubernatorial election in Connecticut in more than 50 years.
When first asked about Pelto, Lieberman did not answer directly.
“Well, I’m not following it that closely,” Lieberman said. “What can I say? I was both lucky and unlucky to lose the [U.S. Senate] Democratic primary in 2006. I didn’t voluntarily choose to run as an independent. I was forced to do so to try to give all of the people in the state the chance to decide whether I should stay as a Senator. It’s harder to run as an independent.”
“I was fortunate to be an incumbent senator. I had people who surged to my side,” Lieberman said. “It’s hard to be a third-party candidate.”