An unconventional choice

Wednesday, August 20th 2008, 1:27 pm
By: News 9

Aug. 20, 2008

By Karin Caifa, for NEWS 9

WASHINGTON -- It is not surprising for a former vice-presidential nominee to snag a speaking slot at a national political convention. Al Gore, who assumed that role for the Democrats in 1992 and 1996, will speak on the final night of next week's gathering in Denver. Many politicos expected John Edwards, the 2004 veep choice, to be in that line up, but he's kept a low-profile since admitting to having an extramarital affair recently.

It is, however, somewhat surprising when a former Democratic vice-presidential nominee takes the stage for the Republicans. News came today that Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, tapped as Gore's running mate in 2000, will switch sides to speak in St. Paul in support of his friend John McCain.

We kind of saw this coming. After all, Lieberman has been a constant presence at McCain's side on the campaign trail since the primaries. And Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, had already announced she'd appear at a St. Paul convention event sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition National Women's Committee.

While the senator from Connecticut hasn't completely cut ties with the Democrats since declaring himself an Independent in 2006, his relationship with the party has been tenuous. At the crux of the disagreement: Lieberman's support of the Iraq war. Two years ago, Lieberman faced a primary challenge from businessman Ned Lamont, a staunch war opponent. Lieberman lost, and many of his Democratic colleagues - including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Chuck Schumer - urged Lieberman to hang it up. Lieberman, of course, kept running, beat Lamont, and returned to the Senate. Labeling himself "Independent" he opted to caucus with the Democrats, giving them the vote they needed to retain a majority and holding on to his chairman's gavel at the helm of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

As to the capacity in which Lieberman will speak in St. Paul, that's still to be determined, and it's not been ruled out entirely that he could reprise the role of vice-presidential nominee -- this time for McCain and the GOP. (Lieberman has said he doesn't want the job, but will do anything he can to help McCain win.) Lieberman is in line with the Republican stance on the Iraq war and is perceived as strong on national security and foreign policy, and embarked on a tour of Poland, the Ukraine and Georgia yesterday. But his support of gun control, gay rights and abortion rights could cause an uproar among the Republican party's conservative base, a group that's been less than enthralled with McCain's candidacy.