Lieberman announces retirement
January 19th, 2011
01:22 PM ET
4 years ago

Lieberman announces retirement

(CNN) – Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut, announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, telling reporters at a midday press conference "I have decided that it's time to turn the page to a new chapter."

"I've loved serving in the Senate and I feel good about what I've accomplished. But I know that it is the right decision, and I must say, having made it, I am excited to begin a new chapter of life with new opportunities," said Lieberman Wednesday.

The move by the four-term senator caps off a roller-coaster political career in which Lieberman came a hair short of becoming vice president in 2000 before epically striking out at his own bid for the presidency four years later and then losing his party's senate nomination a mere two years after that.

Lieberman, once among Connecticut's most popular politicians, has also seen his poll numbers dip precipitously over the last two years and political observers have long predicted the four-term senator would have had a steep climb toward reelection.

"I know that some people have said if I ran for reelection it would be a difficult campaign for me," said Lieberman. "So what else is new? It probably would be a difficult campaign, but I've run many difficult campaigns before."

The decision is somewhat of a surprising one given Lieberman's ongoing appeal with independent voters and the respect, however tepid, he garners from both sides of the aisle.

While Lieberman is now an independent, he has aligned himself with the Democratic leadership for organizational purposes, a move that helped boost the Democratic majority on key issues like health care reform and most recently the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

At the same time, Lieberman has endeared himself to Republicans with his early condemnation of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinski affair, his strident support of the war in Iraq and his endorsement of Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

But Lieberman's "party of one" status has at times frustrated Democratic leaders and the liberal wing of the party, leading one Democratic source to privately express a "sigh of relief" the senior senator is departing. At the same time, Lieberman was never fully embraced by the GOP given his relatively liberal voting record and reluctance to seriously break from his former party more than only a handful of times.

"I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes, maybe you've noticed that. Democrat, Republican, liberal or conservative. Because I've always thought my first responsibility is not to serve a political party but to serve my constituents, my state, and my country," Lieberman also said Wednesday.

Ultimately the move adds further murkiness to Democrats' hopes of hanging on to its slim majority in the Senate in the 2012 election, especially coming on the heels of a similar retirement decision by Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota.

The race for his seat is wide open and the state's Senate race in 2010 showed a well-funded Republican has more than a decent chance of wresting control of the seat from Democrats. Still, Democrats are quick to point out President Barack Obama will be on the top of the ticket in 2012, boosting turnout among the party faithful.

Earlier on Tuesday former Connecticut secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz announced that she is planning to mount a bid while Reps. Chris Murphy and Joe Courtney are also thought to be considering campaigns of their own. Meanwhile, various Republicans are mulling their options.

A Lieberman aide stressed that the senator made his own decision some time ago and it was not influenced by Bysiewicz's announcement Tuesday or any other maneuvering.

"I do not intend today to be the end of my career in public service," Lieberman said. "I will keep doing everything in my power to build strong bridges across party lines."

Ultimately though, Lieberman offered few hints about his future plans. But McCain, perhaps his closest friend in the Senate, has at least one suggestion.

"I really hope that the president would consider [for Secretary of Defense]," McCain told CNN. "I sure hope, whatever happens, he will play a major role on national security issues."

– CNN's Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report


Filed under: Joe Lieberman
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Phil in KC

    I think this is a good thing. Lieberman can't decide which party he supports. Maybe this will allow voters to make a clear choice.

    January 19, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. Ted

    Good riddance!

    January 19, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Matt

    Best news year. Finally we got rid of Lieberman.

    January 19, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  4. Baruch

    Good news.

    January 19, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. REALLY!

    Thank you for your service, I do too agree that it is time for you to turn the page especially since you can't decide which side of the isle you support and that is ok, there may be items on the left you agree and disagree with same with the right. i feel however that you made it very clear that you are more for the RIGHT side after campaigning for McCain in 2008 and that is ok as well. Hope you don't go out with nasty words about POTUS.

    January 19, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Peter

    Joe would make a great addition to Obama's admin. I think it would also be great for Obama to have an independent in his cabinet.

    January 19, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. chris

    Nobody likes a traitor and Mr. Lieberman just figured that out.....

    January 19, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Big Al

    So Aetna, The Hartford and the rest of the CT based insurance cartel are going to have to hire another pawn in the senate. We're talking about the weasel who refused to revoke anti-trust immunity for the insurance industry thanks to his wife's employment there and a huge chunk of them residing in his home state. If there was ever an example of a lobby group having a direct presence in the senate, it's old Joe. Not to worry. The insurance lobby has billions. They'll buy someone even stronger to replace him.

    January 19, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. austinypc

    Both senators from Connecticut Lieberman and Chris Dodd decided not to run for their reelection, because their approval rating in local survey was hopelessly low even if they are popular in the capitol hill..

    January 19, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. joe

    in a word.. GOOD.. time o'l stone face give it up..he's sucked the taxpayers t it long enough..

    January 19, 2011 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  11. S. In California

    Good riddance to him and Hillary. Is John Kerry available for Hillary's spot?

    January 19, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. theloonman

    How much do you wanna bet he flip-flops on this decision too?

    January 19, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. Josh

    I wonder if someone like Obama has handed Joe that new chapter?

    January 19, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  14. redhead

    Good riddance, Lieberman/Emperor Palpatine was on the dark side! Now good shall prevail once again!

    January 19, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. Bill

    why doesn't he just tell the truth, that tihs is about to hit the fan and i dont want to be a jew in office that catches the blame for n e thing like my jew friend mrs. Giffords did in arizona

    January 19, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. Roger

    Is he running for prez?

    January 19, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    senate and nation will lose comon sense guy

    January 19, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. barbara451

    courteously, talk about traitors. glad this guy will be gone

    January 19, 2011 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. Good Riddance

    What a schmuck!

    January 19, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I believe that he has seen the handwriting on the wall. He is making the correct decision on to run for another term. It would be a hard race no matter how he ran.

    January 19, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Thank you Sen. Joe Lieberman for all the years of service you have given to the people of Conn and USA.

    January 19, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. Lyric

    I didn't always agree with his politics but he represented his constituents they way they wanted. My impression of him was that he was honorable.

    January 19, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Abudu Rahman

    GOOD RIDDANCE and don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.

    January 19, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. andy

    Flip Flap did not work for this trader!! so whats next? another trip to Israel.............his homeland

    January 19, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Wait Lieby!!! McCain is trying to "hook you up" through prayer and hope that the President finds you a cushy gub'mint job to land your petal soft feet on.

    Don't hold your breath. On second thought, good luck with your retirement, and enjoy your government provided health care.

    January 19, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
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