Last week, Tom Schaller writing at Salon speculated on getting to 60 in the Senate. Here's his proposal:
We know Virginia's Mark Warner and the Udall cousins in New Mexico and Colorado look pretty solid. Let's speculate further that Jean Shaheen holds off John Sununu in New Hampshire, Jeff Merkley defeats Gordon Smith in Oregon, Alaska's scandal-plagued Ted Stevens cannot save himself from Mark Begich, and Al Franken can finish his late-campaign run against Minnesota's Norm Coleman. And then, riding Barack Obama's coattails, Kay Hagan upends Liddy Dole in North Carolina.
That would mean eight new Democratic senators, giving Harry Reid 59 seats. (Including that Connecticut guy whose name we dare not speak, of course.) Where might a 60th, filibuster-proof senator come from?
How about Nebraska?
After he beat Republican Mike Johanns, the former Bush agriculture secretary, in a cow-milking contest last August, I blogged about the Democratic candidate, Nebraska Rep. Scott Kleeb. All good fun, but the actual Senate contest itself was one nobody outside the Kleeb campaign had on his or her competitive-race radar.
Schaller goes on to say that the Johanns scandal has focused just a little more national attention on the race. Will that national attention help Kleeb raise his profile enough in the eastern, more populous and Democratic part of the state enough to carry him over? The thing is, given the chance, Kleeb makes a very compelling case.
That's best shown in this exchange he had at an Omaha Kiwanis meeting. It was not, to say the least, a friendly crowd for a Democrat. In the midst of the financial crisis, this group wanted to talk about immigration and abortion. Scott was the best I've seen him in responding to a man in the audience who just didn't want to give up on talking about abortion. His exasperation and frustration led to this:
...We get so fixated on having an argument, and defining each other, as opposed to what we actually want to do. What do we want to do? All of us, every single one of us in this country wants to get to zero. And yet we become so fixated on the same discussions we've had for thirty years. Discussions on energy that give us higher prices, discussions on the economy which means that we ship more jobs overseas, discussions on abortion which means the number of abortions goes up, rather than down. Discussions on health care which means fewer people actually get insured.
We don't fix anything in this country anymore. On abortion, on health care, on energy, on the economy, on the environment--whatever the issue is we don't fix things anymore. And it's because we focus on labels and we focus on argument. As opposed to on solutions. The reason why we don't have trust in our political leadership is because they have pointed the finger and have blamed and every Sunday morning we see them in 30 second sound bites saying "It's not my fault we have a financial crisis--it's their fault." And the other person says "It's not my fault we have a financial crisis--it's their fault." Well it's all their faults and it's our fault for perpetuating the same conversations that we've had.
If we want to get past this moment right now then we have got to recognize that we can do again what my granddad believed so deeply in. And we can work together despite whatever differences we might have for a shared and common goal. That's what this moment is. These moments don't come around very often and we have to take advantage of them.
He won a small part of that crowd over in this exchange as you can hear by the smattering of applause that breaks out, and if he could do that on the hot-button issue of abortion in this crowd, he's got a message that will work in Nebraska.