The Real Reason to be Excited About Scott Kleeb for Congressby Kyle Michaelis
So, there's the numbers game for you. Personally, I'm inclined to believe - with the two extremes - both campaigns are offering inflated results, but, from the rumblings across the Third District, those 40% to 31% figures sound just about right. And, to be honest, those are some pretty encouraging results that don't need to be artificially hyped because, above all else, they demonstrate just how vulnerable Smith is and how weak a base of support he holds.
For a true illustration of this point, if you want a true sense of where things stand in this race, I suggest looking beyond any of the numbers listed above and instead reading a very telling article from Wednesday's Kearney Hub. That story reports:
Some Kearney-area Republicans are crossing party lines to support a Democrat in the race to replace 3rd District Rep. Tom Osborne.
“I wish Scott Kleeb were a Republican, but in this case we have to support the candidate who is better for the district,” said retired Kearney businessman Ron Larsen, a Republican.
Larsen and his wife, Nancy, are among 13 couples listed as hosts on invitations for a Sept. 29 fundraiser for Kleeb....
“I feel pretty strongly that Kleeb is the better of the two candidates,” Gene Koepke said. “When you talk to people about this, they say, ‘You’re a Republican?’ ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘a lifetime Republican.’”
The fundraiser invitations went to about 1,900 Kearney business operators and professionals, and suggest donations ranging from $50 to $250....
Some of the Kearney Republicans for Kleeb said they had supported candidate John Hanson of Kearney in the Republican primary because Hanson had the best grasp of agricultural issues. They said Hanson’s loss disappointed them, but they are angry because [Adrian] Smith won the primary using contributions from an organization that opposes farm subsidies.
“What disturbed me the most in the primary,” Kearney businessman Tom Henning said, “was that Club for Growth gave Adrian Smith $325,000. They (Club for Growth) are in favor of eliminating the USDA. I’m not certain what Smith’s motive was”....
“Club for Growth is a serious issue. Adrian Smith may wish he never heard of Club for Growth before the race is over,” Henning said.
He and Larsen said they hesitated to support a non-Republican, but after they met Kleeb and heard his positions, they were satisfied....
[Steve] Buttress said he doubts Smith’s abilities because he hasn’t distinguished himself in the Nebraska Legislature..."Between the two of them, Scott Kleeb just seems so articulate and thoughtful, someone we’d be proud to have back there.”
Koepke offered similar comments about Smith. “If you can’t provide service in the Unicameral, you can’t do it in Washington.”
Henning echoed Buttress’ assessment of Kleeb. “He’s a bright guy, well-educated and a good listener. And he’s not controlled by any group.”
Larsen and Henning said many Republicans would have to cross party lines in order for Kleeb to win the 3rd District, where Republicans outnumber Democrats almost 2-1....
Larsen said when people see that Republicans are organizing behind Kleeb, they might look more closely at his candidacy. “There are some pretty good Republicans on the fundraiser list. Maybe it’s something the rest of the Republicans in the district should see.”
That, right there, is the story of Nebraska's Third District this election year. It's a story of one candidate, Adrian Smith, who is not only utterly unimpressive on the campaign trail but who already sold-out the voters by aligning with the Club for Growth, whose disastrous agenda for farmers and ranchers promises to drive them off an economic cliff in the name of an extremist ideology. With the entire Third District economy rooted in agriculture, Smith's conduct is not only unacceptable; his campaign is downright dangerous.
Contrast that with the other candidate, Kleeb, who possesses uncommon intelligence and charisma yet has never lost that common touch for which the greatest leaders who've emerged from Western Nebrska will always be remembered. Kleeb possesses that "something special", that spark for which the Third District has so long been in need and so long been lacking from its leadership. If voters are able to look beyond partisan labels, they are going to recognize that spark - they are going to rediscover hope of awakening and renewal that had all but given way to conceding the steady decline of their communities and the death of their way of life thanks to years of false promises and familiar rhetoric from politicians like Adrian Smith.
Clearly voters recognize the stakes, and that's why they are so hesitant to embrace Smith's sub-mediocrity. Over the next 6 weeks, however, they must recognize the possibilities - looking to the future, looking in their hearts, looking after their own best interests - and, if they do, you can expect their embrace of Scott Kleeb for Congress.
Sadly, were Adrian Smith just another status quo Republican, voters would probably resign themselves to supporting him for that reason alone. But, by his selling-out to the Club for Growth (for well more than 30 pieces of silver), Smith betrayed the very people whose support he took for granted, mistakenly assuming his being a Republican would be good enough.
But, being a Republican isn't enough. Not in 2006. Not in Nebraska's Third District. And, certainly, not against a candidate of Scott Kleeb's caliber - a leader of vision who would be an actual voice for the people he represents.
Already, as the report from Kearney suggests, a number of Republicans have realized how completely Smith fails by comparison to Kleeb. More will realize the same each and every day as their attentions turn to this election, meaning - with the hard work and the continued commitment of those who recognize Kleeb's promise - this race could be the shock of the nation on November 7th as voters answer Kleeb's call and stand together with actual hope for the years ahead.