This week: We honor our fallen soldiers. 3,334 American flags were placed on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha for our second annual Tribute To The Fallen. Please take a moment to view the photo gallery. Politics seems trivial at times like these, but the only way to prevent more flags in the ground next year is to elect people who will work to end this war. On that note, we move to the week in Nebraska politics.
Inside: Jon Bruning has some shocking polling numbers, Kyle Michaelis on Nebraska politics in the new media, the Daily Nebraskan releases Jon Bruning's columns, and UNO Democrats are ready to project that Chuck Hagel is definitely seeking reelection to the Senate.
Part I: Bruning Polls Ahead of Hagel?
A bit of a shocker from the Bruning camp on Monday, as he announced a poll that showed him leading incumbent Chuck Hagel 47-38, in the clearest sign yet that Bruning intends to challenge Hagel for the nomination.
The NNN has more:
The real kicker, though, might be the fact that more than a quarter of Nebraska Republicans (26%) have an unfavorable view of Bush - their own president. I'm guessing there's not a whole lot of cross-over between the 26% who dislike Bush and the 36% who dislike Hagel, painting a picture of a Nebraska Republican Party in which more than 60% of its voters are practically at war with themselves.
There's also evidence of a serious disconnect with reality in the Nebraska Republican Party rooted in its self-imposed, reactionary ignorance in all matters concerning the Iraq War. Of those voters who were so disfavorable towards Hagel, 16% said it's because "he's critical of the Bush Administration," and 12% said it's because "he's not loyal to the Republicans." Clearly, that's a whole lot of Republicans who are so consumed with the desire to believe what they want of the Iraq War that they'll also believe whatever they want of Hagel - whose 2006 voting record rated him as the most loyal Republican to President Bush in the entire U.S. Senate.
So, really, that 60%-plus of Nebraska Republicans who've found so much to dislike about Hagel or Bush might still be able to find some common ground realizing they dislike Hagel AND Bush.
Part II: Hagel Strikes Back
Nebraskans will not vote for a chameleon.
When Bill Clinton was president and the Democrats controlled Congress, Jon Bruning was a card-carrying pro-choice, pro-tax Democrat. After a Republican Congress was elected in 1994, he transformed himself into a pro-life, anti-tax Republican.
For a little more info on that front, see Paging Power, who passes along this great little find: the complete works of Jon Bruning from the Daily Nebraskan. (It's a large file, so I'd recommend saving it to your disk.)
Kyle at the NNN seizes on this little quote, directing it toward Tuesday's mayoral election:
Surprise, surpise...guess who else besides Bruning was also a Democrat until after the 1994 elections. That's right - Mr. Ken Svoboda.
You heard it here first, folks. Chuck Hagel says Nebraskans will not vote for a chameleon. So, according to Chuck Hagel, Nebrakans will not vote for Ken Svoboda.
Part III: Bringing Out The Big Guns
In light of reports that Chuck Hagel was holding a big fundraiser May 18 in Omaha, we began to suspect that he'd given up a run for President to focus on reelection to the Senate. Saturday, we received confirmation in the form of news that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would be headlining that fundraiser. There's no other way to read these events, so we ran with it:
We’re ready to say with a great level of confidence that Chuck Hagel is running for reelection, and that Jon Bruning will challenge him for the nomination.
More on McConnell:
Given his statements on the war, his votes on the Iraq supplemental, there is no way in hell that Mitch McConnell would even want to be seen in the same room as Chuck Hagel for a fundraising event, let alone headline the event for Hagel, unless he had assurances from Hagel that he was running for reelection to the Senate. This should also be a key signal of where the National Republican Party will throw its weight. I’ve long thought that if Hagel ran for reelection, it would play like a Republican version of the Lieberman-Lamont primary in Connecticut, 2006. Hagel has powerful forces behind him in the Republican Party, and Bruning’s in an unenviable position right now. If he fails, his career in Nebraska politics is over. Hagel will - once and for all - claim his supremacy over the Nebraska Republican Party.
Paging Power's take on the potential Bruning-Hagel matchup:
When Hagel turns his attention away from ego stroking press conferences and toying with a presidential race and focuses on reelection (which I think will happen) Bruning and his antics will be squarely in Hagel's experienced cross hairs.
What will Bruning be running against? Surely, as he has already stated, Brunings main complaints will be Hagel's disagreements with the Bush White House and outspokenness about the war in Iraq. How much traction will he get out of this?
It is true that Hagel thinks, and this 'thinking' thing seems to be as popular with Nebraska Republicans as two dudes making out while Hillary Clinton watches and the Dixie Chicks sing in the background. (Just another Saturday night in my life). It is also true that Hagel's approval ratings are lower than Ben Nelson's despite the fact that 2/3rds of Nebraskans are Republicans. However, Hagel's approval ratings are safely above 50%, a telling threshold as to whether an incumbent is safe or not.
Part IV: The Democrats
It’s time for someone real. It’s time to get up off the mat and say "enough." The Democratic Party will have a real opportunity to offer a true alternative to Nebraska’s voters. Things being the way they are in politics, you’re not going to find a political insider willing to run for this seat. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
At this point in 2005, I had no idea who Scott Kleeb was. I knew Jim Esch’s family, but had no idea that Jim was running for Congress, and no way of knowing the kind of revolutionary campaign he would ultimately wage.
The point is this: we will find a candidate. Someone will be willing to run for this seat. And if we don’t, then we should just fold up our tent right now and go home, because we don’t deserve to be called the Democratic Party.
Take a minute to read Kyle Michaelis' speech to the NAPBA on "Nebraska Politics in the New Media." A lot of focus on what he's trying to do with the NNN and what the role of blogs is in general in today's politics. Very interesting.
In a week where two of his constituents died during a Monday attack, Adrian Smith cast a vote in favor of indefinite war in Iraq.
Bottom line.....they present the very guidelines the military uses, and the benchmarks the President wants to see. And it turns the focus back to Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, like it should have all along.
In the end, the ONLY THING that Adrian Smith and his partisan leaders really and truly have against this bill is the fact that the troops are set up to start coming home. That’s it. The body of the bill CLEARLY states that HOW that is done is completely in the hands of the military experts.
And while all this partisanship is reigning, two more soldiers from the 3rd District of Nebraska were killed this week. The communities of Hastings and Burwell are mourning their losses, with the rest of the 3rd District joining them.