Lieberman announces retirement
January 19th, 2011
01:22 PM ET
10 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. LacrosseMom(real one)

    Good! He is a hypocrite. Lost all respect for this man a long time ago. Connecticut will be better off without him.

    January 19, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. Rich

    That is very good news for the American people.

    January 19, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. Corn Fed

    Good. I've been very disappointed with him since his swing to "Independent". He's another good example of why we need term limitis.

    January 19, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  4. max

    He is only leaving because he was going to get blown out in an election

    January 19, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Lieberman spent his political capitol listening to John McCain and John McCain spent his on Palin, end of story.

    January 19, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Gail

    Glad to see some good political news for once! Goodbye, good riddance, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    January 19, 2011 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  7. Norm

    At least he can get a high paying job in the health insurance industry.

    January 19, 2011 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |

    I too say good riddiance to bad rubbish huray that the republican bastard is retiring . for he has pose as a democrat for long enough an he has voted to give the reprublican leadership anything that they have wanted for way way way to long now . perhaps his replacement will be a true die in the wool real DEMOCRAT THAT HIS REPPLACEMENT WILL VOTE AN TOW THE DEMOCRAT PARTY LINE FOR REAL AN NOT JUST AS A PERTEND DEMOCRAT THANK YOU

    January 19, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  9. Dan

    You will be missed, Joe. Good luck.

    January 19, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya'!
    Aloha,Sayonara, Adios, and Buh-Bye!!

    January 19, 2011 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Unknown

    What were you thinking when you have endorsed John McCain? Someone had a short term memory loss.

    January 19, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  12. tom

    He lost his direction a long time ago. Time for this sinking ship to just disappear from the political landscape. At the end, he thought way too much of himself. There is no way he could ever win another election no matter what political party he would claim to belong too. Bye Joe, we won't forget your endorsement of McCain and that in itself will be the only thing you will be remembered for.

    January 19, 2011 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. Political Insider

    This man is a traitor to the cause. He hurt the Democrats in the last 8 years,worst than any Republican.

    January 19, 2011 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  14. Sarah P

    See Ya! Turn Coat

    January 19, 2011 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. Annie, Atlanta

    Good job on DADT, Senator. But you stood in the way of real health care reform in order to protect those companies in the insurance capital of the world – Hartford CT. How much better could it have been?

    January 19, 2011 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |

    Joe: You over stayed your welcome. "We the People" can get more done in your place and stead!!!

    Lamar C. Chapman III
    Solo Fides (Only by Faith)
    Sacredotal Ordinations July 11, 1991
    Crown of Life Recipient October 24, 2004

    January 19, 2011 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  17. Tom

    Flip flop.. oh what a relief it is..

    January 19, 2011 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  18. Kriticizer

    This news makes up for bad news on this site.

    January 19, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. aaron in MN

    Progressive here. See ya later Lieberman ya friggin turncoat! Mr. I oppose the public option even though I haven't read the bill yet. Mr. I don't want public option or single payer because the private health insurance industry in my state says I shouldn't want it. Hopefully we get a replacement who actually cares about the people they serve. Later nerd!

    January 19, 2011 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |

    How's that old saying go? "When the fire gets too hot, got outta the kitchen!"

    January 19, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. Mike Hunt

    Great, now who's going to play the part of Deputy Dog in the made for TV movie.

    January 19, 2011 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. Oy Vey Az

    Turn two pages while you are at it ... take McCain with you ... Please !

    January 19, 2011 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. abnguy

    It's sad to see him go, He was one of the few sane voices in the party.

    January 19, 2011 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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