Friday, August 05, 2005

$218 million - now, THAT'S a Republican

by Kyle Michaelis
J. Peter Ricketts, an Omaha businessman with an estimated $218 million in holdings of Ameritrade - a company founded by his father, J. Joe Ricketts - seems poised to throw his hat in the ring to become the Republican challenger to incumbent Senator Ben Nelson in 2006.

Right off the bat, if reports proves true, it seems safe to say there's a new front-runner for the Republican nomination. Neither of the previously announced candidates, David Kramer and Don Stenberg, have the ideas, charisma, or momentum to take on that sort of money. Nebraska Republicans are going to be so desperate for a candidate who can beat Nelson, which so obviously doesn't seem the case with Kramer or Stenberg, that the simple fact of Ricketts money could well "buy" him the nomination without hardly spending a dime.

The World-Herald reports:
If J. Peter Ricketts runs for the U.S. Senate, he and the wealth he acquired through Ameritrade could shake up the race.

Ricketts, son of the founder of Ameritrade and worth at least $218 million, could become the third Republican to enter the 2006 race in hopes of unseating Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said several people active in the Republican Party.

Ricketts, 40, said Thursday he was resigning as chief operating officer of Ameritrade Holding Inc., the Omaha online brokerage. The company said he was leaving to "explore an opportunity in public service."

Ricketts, a key opponent of casino proposals in Nebraska last year, declined to talk about his future....

Ricketts has been talking with friends and supporters the past couple of weeks, exploring a possible run.

He also met in Washington with Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"He's met with the committee, and we think he'd be a great candidate. Senator Dole had a great meeting with him and was very impressed," said Brian Nick, a spokesman for the committee.

Ricketts also met with Presidents Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, when Rove visited Omaha July 8 and spoke to Ameritrade employees....

With his wealth and business contacts, Ricketts could be a formidable opponent for the two other Republicans who have already declared their candidacies: former Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg and Omaha lawyer David Kramer.

Both candidates said they would not be intimidated by Ricketts' wealth, and both said they would welcome him into the race.

"If he does run, this primary is starting to look more and more like the 2000 Senate primary, in which I defeated two candidates who spent about a million dollars of their own money," said Stenberg, who is making his third bid for the U.S. Senate after losing in the 2000 general election to Nelson.

"Peter's willingness to get involved in this race continues to demonstrate Nelson's vulnerability. And, having people of Don and Peter's capabilities in the primary will benefit me in the general election," Kramer said.

Who are Stenberg and Kramer kidding? This sucks for them, and they both know it. The question is how bad could this be for Ben Nelson, who's very popular (more popular, in fact, than Republican counterpart Chuck Hagel) but still faces an incredible registration disadvantage as a Democrat.

Of course, it can sometimes be a hard sell for a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars to connect with common people. Otherwise, we'd just be coming out of Steve Forbes' second term as President. For his sake, I hope Ricketts isn't so rich that he doesn't even have to blink.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to comment on the last statement in your article. I agree that it would be hard for a multi-millionaire to connect with the common man. Pete Ricketts obviously agrees as well because I have yet to see a campaign commercial that doesn't depict him as a hard-working, middle-class family man. Alhtough I have no doubt that Mr. Ricketts is both hard working and a family man, he is anything but middle-class. I have absolutely no problem with his wealth because he and his father earned it. I only have a problem with Ricketts trying to portray himself as the common man who is worrying about the rising cost of healthcare and education From the looks of the million dollar Ricketts home, healthcare and education are not going to be a problem of his in the near future.

Anonymous Jim Enright said...

I see Sen. Nelson , true to form, is running as a hard core fiscal conservative through his TV ads, while his voting record is right in the middle. He got only 655 approval from Grover Norquist, the fiscal conservative, 45% approval from the liberal ADA and 52% from the American Conservative Union. Trying to fool the voters is a good enough reason to vote him out of office. Pete Ricketts ought to use his resources to expose Sen. Nelson's voting record. The swing voters in Nebraska don't much care which party controls the senate. That's why they're swing voters. But they tend to be more conservative than Nelson's voting record. Ricketts can win with the right strategy, since he's a nice guy, not at all elitist, friendly, hard working, same as the multi-millionaire Nelson. (Ricketts didn't grow up rich, had a paper route, etc.) Strategy is the key to victory, since both candidates are acceptable personally and have plenty of resources.

Blogger FireCracker said...

I think that he is a good candidate, reguardless of his wealth. It was nice to see him come all the way out to the panhandle to celebrate Oregon Trail days with us.

I registered to vote because of him (originally to vote against him), but after doing my homework I changed my mind.

Anonymous Jim J. enright said...

Nelson took a licking but kept on ticking on the issue of his taxes on his hunting retreat. Ricketts is absorbing some blows on the Fair Tax, even though he hasn't come out for it, just said it had some good points. Nelson isn't playing fair to imply in his ads that Ricketts favors a 30% sales tax, but Nelson has never been a Boy Scout in his campaigns.
Nelson is just too LIBERAL for Nebraska voters. (Check Project Vote Smart) He is currently rated 60% favorable by American Conservative Union, but Chuck Hagel, who some say is too liberal for the Republican Party, has a 95% rating from ACU.

Nelson is trying to score points againsty Ricketts on immigration. Actually, Rickets is more restrictive on immigration than the Senate bill, somewhat more liberal than the House bill. Nelson is being cagy and postponing any position on illegal immigration except a big border crackdown, until after the election. Ricketts should be rewarded for guts on this issue.

Ricketts would be wise to disavow the Fair Tax, as it IS regressive. The rich pay a smaller percent of their incomes than the middle class and poorer.The more affluent spend lots more of their money on things that aren't taxed, like stocks, bonds, maybe services, foreign trips. ANY sales tax is regressive.But Ricketts has a fighting chance if he can focus the campaign on Nelson's liberal side and emphasize his relative youth and the danger of a Democrat Senate..


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