As the Senate prepared for its all-night debate on Iraq last month, Joseph Lieberman stood with Republicans and lambasted war opponents, most of them Democrats.

``They're already asleep about the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq for our national security,'' Lieberman told reporters at a packed press conference.

Yet little more than an hour earlier, Lieberman had dined at the Democrats' weekly policy luncheon, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Lieberman a valued colleague, despite differences on Iraq.

The day was emblematic of Lieberman's double life since returning six months ago as an independent who sides with President Bush on Iraq, yet caucuses with Democrats -- giving them a tenuous one-vote majority.

``Liberated'' from party affiliation, Lieberman promised last fall to stake out a role as an independent ``bridge builder.'' But although Democratic Senate colleagues routinely praise him and work with him, outside the Beltway he has only become more isolated from the public and from many in Washington as the war becomes the most polarizing issue of the day.

Meanwhile, Lieberman, still wounded by the Connecticut Democrats' rejection of him over the war in a primary last Aug. 8, has no relationship with the state party.

Nancy DiNardo, Democratic state chairwoman, said Lieberman's place in the party, if there is one, remains unresolved since he declared himself an ``independent Democrat'' after his re-election last fall as a petitioning candidate.

``It is awkward, but I don't have a solution,'' DiNardo said. ``It is awkward for him, too.''

The party's premier fundraising event, the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner, was held this year on the Jewish Sabbath, giving the religiously observant Lieberman a graceful reason to skip the event. Last year, he was booed.

Bill Curry, a two-time Democratic gubernatorial nominee and ex-Clinton aide who now writes a weekly political column for The Courant, said, ``I'm guessing the JJB will be on the Sabbath for the next four years, minimum.''

Will He Stay In The Fold?

Lieberman's position on the war can inspire almost as much contention as war itself.

A Curry column last month with the headline ``Lieberman: Blind To Folly,'' harshly assessed the senator's war stance, calling the senator ``one of Bush's two best spear carriers,'' along with Republican John McCain.

The column prompted an op-ed piece by Lanny Davis, a friend and former aide to President Clinton, defending the senator as possessing impeccably liberal Democratic credentials, as long as Iraq is removed from the picture.

One question that hovers over many debates about the senator at home and in Washington is whether Lieberman will remain a Democrat. It's one that Lieberman seems to enjoy keeping the Democrats guessing about.

``He wouldn't be honest or human not to enjoy it,'' Davis said in an interview. ``Anybody in political life would like to have that pivotal leverage. He is the 51st vote, and he knows it.''

Good Democrat or not, Lieberman said last week that he has no interest in participating in that debate.

``I don't. I don't. Some people say, `Are you going to leave the Democratic Party?' And I say, `I don't have any intention to do that.' I am most troubled, of course, by where most of the party nationally is going on foreign and defense policy,'' Lieberman said. ``But that debate goes on.''

With a certainty never publicly expressed by Lieberman, Davis said Lieberman never would join the Senate Republican caucus. Democrats may revile Lieberman over the war, but Davis said the senator shares too much of their agenda to join the GOP.