(AFP) – Dec 17, 2007
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Al Gore's 2000 Democratic vice presidential running mate Joseph Lieberman on Monday threw his support behind a Republican 2008 hopeful, John McCain, saying he would defeat "Islamist terrorism."
"I know that it is unusual for someone who is not a Republican to endorse a Republican candidate for President," Connecticut Senator Lieberman said in a statement.
"If this were an ordinary time and an ordinary election, I probably would not be here today," Liberman said in a copy of remarks he was due to deliver at an event in New Hampshire.
"But this is no ordinary time -- and this is no ordinary election -- and John McCain is no ordinary candidate."
Lieberman broke with his party over the war in Iraq, and now sits as an independent in the Senate, but normally votes with Democrats on all but national security issues.
His endorsement may not do much to help McCain with Republicans, but could strengthen the Arizona senator's hand among independent voters, who play a potentially pivotal role in the January 8 primary election in New Hampshire.
That support base helped McCain surge to victory in the state in 2000, though he eventually lost the nomination to George W. Bush.
"John McCain is the candidate who can best reunite our country and lead us to victory in the war against Islamist terrorism," Lieberman said.
Lieberman is an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq, and like McCain backed Bush's troop surge strategy, which the United States says has made important strides in cutting sectarian violence in the country.
"In an era when politicians so often put political expediency ahead of conviction, Joe Lieberman has stood up for what he believes is in America's interest," McCain said.
"He has stood tall against the prevailing winds on national security and understands why we must succeed in Iraq and in the broader war against radical Islamic extremism."
Gore and Lieberman narrowly lost the disputed 2000 election to Bush, and the Connecticut senator mounted his own unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in 2004.
McCain, once seen as the Republican front-runner, is attempting to revive his campaign, which slumped into a cash crunch earlier this year, and suffered from his positions on illegal immigration and Iraq.
Latest polls show him in a tight race for second place in the Republican field in New Hampshire, behind state front-runner Mitt Romney.
He is also competitive in another key state, South Carolina, though lags behind in polls in Iowa, which launches the state-by-state nominating process on January 3.
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