Saturday, April 08, 2006

Another Endorsement for "Anybody But Stenberg"

by Kyle Michaelis
The powers-that-be in the Nebraska Republican Party are obviously none too keen on the idea of another Don Stenberg vs. Ben Nelson showdown. Nationally, GOP money men and spinmeisters have made it abundantly clear that the floodgates are only going to open for the 2006 Senate race if they get some new blood, particularly the blood of billionaire's son Pete "Richie Rich" Ricketts.

Seeing the potential of all those dollar signs disappearing, party leaders in Nebraska have taken notice. Voters, though, might be a different story.

After 15 state senators endorsed David Kramer earlier this week, the self-styled young lion of the Nebraska Republican Party, Attorney General Jon Bruning, stayed true to his ambitious nature by following the money and hopefully earning some points with the string-pulling big-wigs he'll one day come to looking for funding of his own.

Yes, what little pull Bruning has was put to work on Thursday for the cash-rich but still-floundering Ricketts' campaign that craves the legitimacy with voters that all the advertising in the world simply can't buy.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
Attorney General Jon Bruning endorsed businessman Pete Ricketts for U.S. Senate on Thursday, saying Ricketts is the Republican with the best chance of beating Democrat Ben Nelson.

Bruning passed over Don Stenberg, the man he succeeded as attorney general, and David Kramer, the former state Republican Party chairman. Bruning said the other candidates in the May 9 GOP primary "don't have a business perspective."

"He's a regular guy who cares about all Nebraskans," Bruning said of Ricketts, a millionaire. "I think he's going to make an exceptional senator."

Strangest about Bruning's announcement is the fact that the reporting of it by both the World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star has Bruning saying only that Ricketts has the best chance of beating Sen. Nelson. The press release from the Ricketts campaign, though, clearly quotes Bruning saying of the other candidates, "They don't...have the ability to beat Ben Nelson."

If Bruning stands by that statement, there's the story right there - if Ricketts' and his money aren't in the race, then there is no race. Why the World-Herald and the Journal-Star wouldn't report the full extent of Bruning's endorsement, to the point that it questions the ability and legitimacy of the other candidates, is mysterious and disconcerting. That Bruning makes the above assessment of Stenberg, his three-term predecessor as Attorney General, only adds to the intrigue and to the general 'slap-in-the-face' Stenberg continues to take from those who know him best.

It's still not clear how any of this will play with Republican voters, but Stenberg seems confident of a repeat of the 2000 primary when he easily defeated a handful of candidates spending far more money on their campaigns. From the looks of it, Stenberg may want to prepare himself for a repeat of the 2000 general election as well . . . except this time he's running against one of the most popular incumbent Senators in the country, so that margin of defeat could be blown wide open.

Divide and conquer. Me thinks the Benator is alive, well, and on his way towards victory.


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