Still, the extent of that separation proved quite a surprise when, at a debate in Grand Island Saturday, candidates Tom Osborne, Dave Nabity, and Dave Heineman were asked to grade President Bush's presidential performance.
The AP reports on the exchange:
The three Republican candidates for governor distanced themselves from President Bush on Saturday, with Gov. Dave Heineman delivering the harshest criticisms of Bush's leadership and the federal government.
Heineman, U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne and Omaha businessman Dave Nabity fielded questions from a panel of journalists at the annual Nebraska Associated Press Broadcasters Association convention.
When asked to grade the president based on his performance related to Nebraska, Heineman said he would give Bush and Congress an F because of how the federal budget was handled. He said Bush deserved a C on overall performance.
"To me that is really detrimental to our state when the federal government cannot balance its budget," said Heineman, apparently taking a dig at Osborne, who is finishing his sixth year in Congress.
He said Congress has engaged in record spending and followed misguided priorities.
Osborne gave Bush the highest mark, a B. He praised Bush for supporting the expansion of ethanol, cutting taxes and addressing what Osborne called a "perfect storm" of events following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also praised Bush for launching the war in Afghanistan, rebuilding New York City and dealing with corporate accounting scandals.
"He's been consistent," Osborne said of Bush. "Some people disagree with him, but I think he's hung in there pretty well"....
Nabity said he would give Bush a C-plus.
"He is not dealing with illegal immigration and doing everything he can to close the borders and stop the influx of illegal immigration," Nabity said.
Pretty clever positioning by Heineman. His attempt at tying Bush's numerous failures to Osborne shows just how badly Heineman wants to win this race, breaking with years of fierce partisan loyalty climbing up through the ranks of the Nebraska GOP just to work in an Osborne pot-shot.
Of course, holding Heineman accountable and taking him for his word, the Nebraska press has again proven itself incompetent by failing to point out that Heineman's harsh criticism was not confined to Bush and Osborne, even if those were his intended targets.
No, the Bush/Osborne team Heineman grades with an F for its fiscal recklessness also includes Nebraska Republican Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry. In fact, according to Congressional Quarterly, both Fortenberry and Terry are much more to blame than Osborne for the Bush Administration's failures. Their pathetic example of Republican rubber-stamping makes Osborne look independent by comparison:
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, 95 percent
Sen. Chuck Hagel, 94 percent
Rep. Lee Terry, 94 percent
Rep. Tom Osborne, 93 percent
Hagel: 89 percent
Fortenberry: 87 percent
Terry, 85 percent
Osborne, 76 percent
Look who else deserves a far greater share of Bush's failure and Heineman's ire than Osborne - the Heineman-endorsing Chuck Hagel. Frankly, Heineman can't hang Bush's dead weight and unpopularity on Osborne's back without, at the same time, wrapping it tightly around Hagel, Fortenberry, and Terry's throats.
Of course, I support Heineman's making such a harsh assessment. It's well-deserved all-around, and I'm glad to see a Republican willing to admit it.
You heard it here first, folks. Heineman grades Bush, Hagel, Fortenberry, and Terry with a big fat F for the Republican Party's out of control spending and misguided priorities.
Damn straight! I couldn't have said it better myself. Who knew Heineman was such a stand-up guy? Heck, from the sound of it, I'm expecting his endorsement of Democratic candidates for Congress Maxine Moul, Jim Esch, and Scott Kleeb any moment now.
Dave Heineman. Class act. Of course, I still don't want to see him actually get elected to a real term of his own, but today he's really earned my respect...and that's got to count for something.
Download the audio and listen to Osborne, Nabity, and Heineman ganging-up on Bush by clicking here.