Sunday, April 30, 2006

FwE 2: Ricketts & Stenberg "Cardboard Cutouts", "Robotic"

by Kyle Michaelis
Unlike their joint endorsement of Tom Osborne for Governor, the World-Herald and Journal-Star actually parted company on who should be the Republican nominee to challenge Sen. Ben Nelson in November.

The Journal-Star endorsed Pete Ricketts with an echo of every theme the candidate has bombarded TV viewers with over the last 6 months. Since the smart money is now on Ricketts to win the race, such an endorsement did not surprise.

The World-Herald, however, did surprise by endorsing the underdog in the race, David Kramer, taking a number of jabs at the better-known Ricketts and Don Stenberg for their mutual lack of substance and personality. Without naming names, the World-Herald writes:
Many Nebraska Republicans are focusing so intently on the question of how they can defeat U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson - an experienced and respected Nebraska political leader - that they are failing to appreciate a far more important consideration.

Namely: What kind of candidate should the GOP put forward to best serve the interests of Nebraska?

In the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate, that candidate is David Kramer.

Nebraskans deserve U.S. senators who have a breadth of vision. Who have a wide experience in the world. Who can easily work with people beyond boundaries of party and ideology. Who demonstrate a sureness of judgment.

Nebraskans deserve U.S. senators who understand that being a senator means offering substantive analysis on issues rather than developing campaign positions through a paint-by-numbers, appeal-to-the-usual- interest-groups approach.

Nebraskans deserve senators who understand that being a senator means interacting with Nebraskans like an actual, relaxed human being, not a cardboard cutout.

On all these scores, Kramer stands far ahead of his competitors....

Kramer's approach to policy analysis demonstrates impressive depth. Ask him questions about specific issues, and he doesn't respond with robotic answers. He expresses his thoughts in a relaxed fashion, making well-connected arguments rather than burdening listeners with tiresome, canned campaign rhetoric.....

Ben Nelson will likely be a very tough candidate for Republicans to beat this fall - for obvious reasons. Nelson has extensive experience and a formidable record. He demonstrates leadership. And he isn't shallow.

Nebraskans should expect Republicans to put forward a candidate with enough substance to offer a serious challenge to a candidate with those strengths. David Kramer meets that test. He has the breadth of vision and wide experience to provide Nebraska with a productive U.S. Senate contest this fall.

I don't think I'm simply seeing what I want to see in reading this as an unqualified bitch-slap of Ricketts and Stenberg - even if it fails to call them out personally. And, I must admit - having seen all three candidates up close - I could not possibly agree more with the World-Herald in their choice or their reasoning.

Though I would not personally vote for Kramer, Ricketts, or Stenberg, Kramer is without a doubt the most thoughtful, most human, and most dynamic of these candidates. Stenberg is, at best, wonkish and impersonal. At worst, devious and flat-out lifeless. Ricketts, on the other hand, has proven that all the money in the world can't buy charisma or substance. He is a walking talking campaign commercial - so scripted and coached that he almost seems helpless when asked to speak deeper on issues than his handful of pre-fabricated soundbytes.

When the World-Herald speaks of Nelson, make no mistake, its emphasis that he isn't shallow is pointed squarely at Ricketts. This guy's bank account - so far as I can tell - is the only thing that has made him a legitimate candidate, let alone the front runner.

Simply put, a vote for Ricketts is a vote of desperation, one banking that all those millions of dollars offer Nebraska Republicans their only real shot at beating Ben Nelson. With Nelson the most popular U.S. Senator in the entire country, I can't honestly say that's an impractical choice. A self-funded campaign does seem like a rational alternative when such dismal prospects suggest no one else will want to sink their money in the race.

But, if this is about putting the best candidate on the ballot, giving Nebraskans a real choice with even a glimmer of something human in his eyes - if you believe that even Republicans in Nebraska should offer more than rhetoric - then, David Kramer is your man.

Not that I expect many Republicans to take my word for it. Hell, if I were them, I wouldn't. But, if they see the candidates for themselves and tune out the idiot box's constant barrage, there's really no other possible conclusion. Of course, in my eyes, Kramer is still just "generic Republican K." But, "generic Republican K" is so much superior to generic Republicans "R" and "S" that he seems like the best money can buy by comparison.

I just hope every economics and marketing major in the state is paying attention because, right now, this race stands to be as clear a lesson as any that - in the modern world - the larger advertising budget can sometimes sell even the most inferior of goods.


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