Joe Lieberman woke up early Monday after a fitful night to the sound of his name on the radio -- something about vice president.
``Did you hear that?'' he asked his wife.
Thus did Connecticut's junior U.S. senator learn of his historic selection by Vice President Al Gore to join the Democratic ticket.
Several hours before, he had gone to bed thinking someone else had probably been picked. It would be several hours later that Gore would call to officially offer him the vice presidential nomination.
But it was at that moment that Lieberman became, at least for a day or two, the hottest name in politics.
It was the exclamation point to what had been a wrenching weekend, as well as the culmination of a 30-year political career that in hindsight seemed to lead almost seamlessly to this moment.
It marked what Gore hopes will be the new beginning of what so far has been a lackluster, lagging campaign, and perhaps most significantly it shattered a long-held cultural taboo, that the country was not ready for a Jewish vice president. Gore decided on Lieberman shortly after midnight Sunday, after roughly eight hours of meetings with his senior staff. Spokesman Chris Lehane said the group found Lieberman ``perfectly'' fit Gore's three criteria: someone he could trust, someone who shared his philosophy and someone who could govern on a moment's notice.
The vice president will make the formal announcement today at a rally at War Memorial Plaza in Nashville. Lieberman left for the Tennessee capital with his family Monday night and had dinner with the Gores.
Before leaving, the usually unflappable senator seemed stunned. ``The vice president asked me if I would do him the honor of running with him, and I said, `Believe me, it's my honor,''' he told reporters in Connecticut. He said he told Gore, ``I'm humbled, I'm grateful, I'm proud and I'm excited, because I believe in you.''
Lieberman first came to know Gore in 1988. Lieberman was Connecticut attorney general, trying to topple Lowell P. Weicker, the Republican maverick whose challenges to Republican presidents on Watergate, abortion, school prayer and other matters had made him a Washington legend. Democratic Senate colleagues privately urged each other not to go to Connecticut and campaign against Weicker; they saw him as on their side.
Two colleagues broke ranks. One was Maine Sen. George J. Mitchell, who led the party's Senate campaign committee and was obligated to go. The other was Gore.
``It was a fairly courageous thing,'' recalled Peter G. Kelly, longtime Hartford activist and fund-raiser who earlier had been pushing Gore for president in 1988.
When Lieberman was elected that year -- with considerable help from conservative Republicans -- he came to Washington touting himself as a new kind of Democrat. His moderate views on education, his call for incentives to help businesses create jobs, his championing of the environment and his tough stands on defense quickly endeared him to like-minded senators such as Gore and Sens. Charles Robb of Virginia and John Breaux of Louisiana.
Lieberman found Gore to be an instant soulmate. ``There was a quick and genuine connection,'' said Marla Romash, Lieberman's campaign press secretary, who in 1989 became Gore's spokeswoman. ``They came from the same place in their hearts.''
Lieberman first gained national attention in 1991, when he was one of 10 Democratic senators -- Gore was another -- to vote to authorize troops to fight in the Persian Gulf. He had begun attending meetings of the Democratic Leadership Council, a rare Northeastern member among this group of moderate Southerners. And in 1992 he became the first Democratic senator outside the South to endorse then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.
That year marked the beginning of what would become a pattern for Lieberman. Clinton got in some media trouble after reports of an extra-marital relationship with singer Gennifer Flowers. Lieberman stuck with him.
After being elected, Lieberman would find Clinton not paying enough attention to urban matters, and had qualms about his tax and budget package. He got lots of notice for questioning the new president's plans, but in the end supported Clinton almost routinely.