New Lieberman Ad Targets Dean

Times Staff Writer

Trailing in New Hampshire, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on Friday unveiled a television ad focusing primarily on a single rival in the Democratic presidential contest -- front-runner Howard Dean.

"I don't think it's right to have raised a divisive symbol like the Confederate flag, or to give up on principles like limiting the amount of money in campaigns," Lieberman says in the commercial.

The ad does not name Dean, but the former Vermont governor recently caused a furor when he said he wanted to be the candidate for Southern whites who drive pickups sporting the Confederate flag.

He was also the first in the Democratic field to opt out of public financing for his campaign -- the only one when Lieberman's campaign rolled out his ad early Friday. Speculation that Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts would also forgo public financing had been swirling, however, and he did so a short time later.

Accepting public financing imposes limits on how much a candidate can raise and spend during the primary season.

Touring eastern Iowa on a bus Friday, Dean lamented Lieberman's attack on the flag issue, saying he had already acknowledged his comments were in bad taste.

"I think [the ad] is really much more divisive than the remark that I made, which I then apologized for," Dean said.

The 30-second ad, dubbed "Focus," is the third of Lieberman's campaign, continuing a series called "On the Road with Joe." Like the others, it shows Lieberman in a diner, sitting on a barstool and talking directly into the camera.

"The charges are flying back and forth in this campaign," Lieberman says.

After criticizing Dean's comments on the Confederate flag and those who opt out of the public financing system, Lieberman switches to pressing his own plans.

"I'm Joe Lieberman," he says, "and I approve this message to focus this campaign on expanded access to health care, tax cuts for 98% of taxpayers, and deficit reduction to protect Social Security. That would be a fresh start."

Lieberman and retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark -- who entered the race less than two months ago -- have decided to forgo campaigning in Iowa, which conducts caucuses on Jan. 19, to focus on New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, to be held Jan. 27.

Polls show Dean leading in New Hampshire, with Kerry second.

Clark on Friday continued a weeklong swing through the Granite State, holding a rally in Concord before he filed papers to become a contestant in the primary.

But Clark's campaign has encountered a problem that could hamper his efforts in New Hampshire. Because of a scheduling conflict, Clark may not attend a nationally televised candidate debate in New Hampshire on Dec. 9.

The Democratic National Committee had asked the candidates to be prepared for a Dec. 10 event, Clark's New Hampshire communications director Bill Buck said.

But when the date was switched, Clark had already scheduled a fund-raising event in New York.

With New Hampshire voters keenly attuned to how much attention the candidates pay their state, Clark asked them for understanding.

"I certainly mean no disrespect," Clark told reporters. "You make obligations. You can't move them. You can't get out of them. People have to respect that."


Times staff writer Matea Gold in Iowa contributed to this report.

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