(CNSNews.com) - The nomination of Joseph Lieberman to the vice presidency has created uncertainty in the race for the Connecticut Senate seat he occupies, with both sides calculating the possibility of winning the seat.
In the midst of a hard-fought campaign for control of the US House and Senate, that may come down to just a few seats in each chamber, the fate of Lieberman's seat takes on extra importance. Under Connecticut law, Lieberman - one of the most popular politicians in the state's history - can run for both the vice presidency and the Senate at the same time, and he says he plans to do so.
But Republicans have already begun the attack, accusing Lieberman of "double-dipping" and insinuating that he lacks confidence in the national ticket's chances.
"[Lieberman is] a very smart man, and if he decides he's not confident enough to let go of his Senate seat, what does that say about Al Gore's chances?" said Stuart Roy of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
According to the Connecticut Secretary of State's office, both Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano, the Republican challenger, and Lieberman are certified to appear on the ballot, though either candidate could remove his name at any time until October 27th, ten days before the general election. The party would then nominate a new candidate.
"We have no reason to believe that will happen," said spokesperson Larry Perosino.
Under state law, Lieberman would resign his Senate seat if he wins the vice presidency, and Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, a Republican, would appoint a successor who would serve until the next general election in 2002.
But some Republicans are already talking about dumping Giordano - widely believed to be a sacrificial lamb in a race Lieberman is expected to win almost 2 to 1 - and putting up a more exciting challenger.
"Phil's a great guy, but he doesn't have a chance," said one Connecticut GOP party activist. "Another candidate might have a better shot, or could be in place to take the seat if Lieberman wins the vice presidency."
But officials at the state party, while expressing "a lot of confidence" in Giordano, are hesitant to push Lieberman to resign from the seat before November for fear the Democrats would nominate a strong candidate, such as state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
For his part, Blumenthal told the Hartford Courant last week he has "encouraged Lieberman to stay in the Senate race."
The calculations over Lieberman's seat come as Democrats are becoming more enthusiastic about their chances of taking control of the Senate, a goal that seemed out of reach for much of the year - though it's still a long shot.
The fortunes of Senate Democrats rebounded when Georgia Republican Paul Coverdell died of a brain hemorrhage last month and was replaced by former Democratic Gov. Zell Miller, who is expected to win the seat handily in November to serve out the last four years of Coverdell's term.
Democrats are either leading or in close races for open seats in New Jersey, New York and Florida, and Democratic challengers are within striking distance of the Republican incumbents in Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Presently, Republicans control the Senate 54 to 46.
Even the most endangered Democratic incumbent, Sen. Charles Robb of Virginia, is running close to even with popular former Gov. George Allen, and observers say his prospects for victory have improved tremendously in the past several weeks.