Donald Lambro

Connecticut Republican officials, including Gov. M. Jodi Rell, had been pressing Schlesinger to abandon his candidacy and let the party choose a replacement, but he has turned aside their pleas.

The result is a White House posture that seems to be in neutral, but is in fact pulling for Lieberman and perhaps quietly urging its Senate candidates to embrace the embattled senator's fight for survival.

White House political strategist Karl Rove called Lieberman in the wake of his defeat. While no one knows what he told the senator, he must have expressed his regret, and the president's, that one of their Democratic allies on Iraq had lost his party's renomination -- forcing him to run as an independent. What followed, moreover, were several high-level endorsements from Republicans around the country, praising Lieberman's willingness to reach out across the aisle and his unswerving support for the war in the face of fierce opposition from left-wing antiwar activists and bloggers who fueled Lamont's victory. Congressman Mark Kennedy, running for the open Democratic seat in Minnesota, expressed "tremendous respect for Sen. Lieberman's courage and his character. In the face of blistering negative attacks, he didn't waffle, he didn't back down from what he knew was right."

Republican business executive Mike McGavick, who is in a close race with Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell in Washington State, sent Lieberman a campaign contribution, saying his "message of independence and bipartisanship is right for our country."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg embraced him, too, saying that with the country so polarized, it needed "nonpartisan elected officials who think doing the right thing for the public is more important than supporting some party." In New Jersey, Republican Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. admired "Lieberman's ability to work across the aisle with members of the opposite party," his spokesman told me.

Ironically, as a Gallup Poll showed, Lieberman has more support from Republicans than he does among Democrats, though the 48 percent of Democrats who voted for him this month isn't chopped liver, either.

But with the Republican establishment rejecting Alan Schlesinger, who gets 6 percent in the polls, the dirty little secret in Washington is that some of Lieberman's biggest supporters are in the White House.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.