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8/9/2006
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Internet Activists, Bloggers Shaped Connecticut Senate Race

Bloggers helped push challenger Ned Lamont into the spotlight. And Sen. Joseph Lieberman's Web site went down a few hours before the election--an outage he blamed on his opponents.

With the dust still settling Wednesday on political newcomer Ned Lamont's Democratic primary victory over incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the two sides in the hard-fought election could agree on one thing: the Internet played a major role in the race.

Virtually unknown in Connecticut political circles when he first announced his candidacy several months ago, Lamont received an initial burst of momentum from anti-war bloggers who criticized the three-term senator for supporting President Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

Then, in a footnote to the stunning Net-centric campaign, sometime in the final hours before Tuesday's election, Lieberman's Web site was shut down amid complaints by some that the site had suffered a denial of service attack.

Lieberman's campaign manager Sean Smith complained that the loss of the site was due to a coordinated attack by "our political opponents." The Lamont camp immediately denied involvement in any alleged attack, saying: "If Senator Lieberman's Web site was indeed hacked we had absolutely no part in it, denounce the action, and urge whoever is responsible cease and desist immediately."

From the beginnings of the campaign several months ago, anti-war activists -- many of whom had cut their teeth on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's failed presidential candidacy two years earlier hammered away at Lieberman.

Lamont set up a simple Web site early on, seeking 1,000 volunteers. The approach worked and the volunteers launched a series of house parties that drew in even more volunteers.

Another organization that helped Lamont topple the Leiberman cause was MoveOn.org Political Action one of the pioneers of using the Internet for political organizing.

While MoveOn.org can take some credit for helping Lamont get early traction, the organization maintained there was much more to the challenger's campaign than Internet supporters. "We won last night in Connecticut," Eli Pariser, MoveOn.org executive director said in an e-mail statement. "Ned Lamont's victory is proof that people-powered politics works. In an election decided by 10,119 votes, MoveOn members made 77,000 calls to Connecticut voters. Now we need to make enough calls to win back Congress."

Lieberman moved quickly Wednesday to file to run for reelection as an independent in November setting up a contest against Lamont and Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger. Lieberman told reporters that he was heartened by his strong closing in the final days of the primary.

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