Is America ready for a Jewish president

WASHINGTON — Can a Jew become president in America? We may soon find out.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) is expected to announce his candidacy for president next month following former Vice President Al Gore's announcement Sunday that he would not seek the 2004 nomination.

Lieberman had pledged he would not run against Gore, his partner on the Democratic ticket in 2000.

Analysts and advisers say they have seen no evidence that Lieberman's faith would hinder his campaign.

Many cite the warm reception when Lieberman ran as the Democratic candidate for vice president as proof that American voters are ready for a Jew as president.

"I think what we learned in 2000 is that while there is anti-Semitism in this country it's not widespread in the population, and people are willing to vote for a Jew on a national ticket," said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster.

In fact, Lieberman's devotion to his faith — he is an observant Jew — could be a draw for religious voters of all faiths.

Many believe Lieberman will throw his hat into the ring, and will announce in his home state of Connecticut, sources said.

"I said I probably would run if Al Gore doesn't run, and that remains the case," Lieberman said Monday.

When he was chosen as Gore's running mate before the August 2000 Democratic convention, Lieberman evoked strong emotions among American Jews.

During the 2000 campaign Leiberman did face criticism from some American Jewish leaders for consistently invoking God in his campaign appearances.

"The line of church and state is an important one and has always been hard for us to draw, but in recent years we have gone far beyond what the framers ever imagined in separating the two," Lieberman said in an October 2000 speech. "So much so that we have practically banished religious values and religious institutions from the public square."

Those and other silimlar comments drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League.

While Lieberman generally is considered a strong supporter of Israel, some Jews feared that — more than a Christian candidate — Lieberman would go out of his way to prove that his Judaism did not make him a tool or an apologist for the Jewish state.