Thursday, October 26, 2006

Friends With Benefits - Ricketts Buys Hagel a Bounce

by Kyle Michaelis
Pete Ricketts' $12 million investment in his Senate campaign has finally paid off - not for Ricketts, but for Sen. Chuck Hagel. As Ricketts' campaign continues to crash & burn with each successive step - most recently, attacking a Nebraska company with baseless accusations in a misguided attempt to smear Sen. Ben Nelson - it seems reasonable to assume that Ricketts is hurting Republican candidates across the board by alienating their base and possibly annoying voters enough to stay home on Election Day.

The only man who's stood to gain from Ricketts' relentless negativity and destructive desperation has been Hagel, who doesn't have to share a ballot with him on Nov. 7th. As I wrote on Oct. 10th, Chuck Hagel is cashing-in while he can:
Watch Hagel's supposed endorsement of Ricketts. The ad isn't even about Ricketts. It's about Chuck Hagel. On the surface, Hagel says the unseen Ricketts has "character and courage" and voters are expected to take his word for it though they've seen neither from Ricketts throughout the campaign. Voters were never going to fall for that.

Hagel, however, stands to benefit because his talking about "character and courage" - on Pete Ricketts' dime - serves as a nifty reminder of his well-cultivated persona. Sure, it might be baseless and absurd to claim Ricketts has these qualities, but Hagel's talking about them reinforces the idea that he has them himself.

Proof that Hagel's front-and-center free advertising worked to his advantage can be seen in the latest SurveyUSA monthly tracking poll giving him his highest marks with Nebraska voters since August of 2005. Coming in with an Oct. approval rating of 60%, Hagel gained a full 5% points over his 55% rating the preceding three months. This bump has been especially pronounced amongst Republican voters, giving creedence to my additional theory that Hagel stood to gain from endorsing Ricketts because:
With many Nebraska Republicans resentful of Hagel's Sunday morning criticism of President Bush and the occupation of Iraq, it can't hurt for Hagel to play the loyal footsoldier for the folks back home in an effort to boost his standing.

Sure enough, Hagel's seen a 6% bounce with Republicans since last month - having gained a full 9% points since July.

In a very minor - almost embarrassing - coup for Hagel, this is the first time he's scored higher with Republican voters than Senate counterpart Nelson in 15 months. Still, with all the orchestrated attacks and millions of dollars worth of negativity against Nelson, Nelson managed to score just 4% lower than Hagel with a Republican approval rating of 56%.

With the full range of Nebraska voters, though, Nelson continued his long-standing dominance over Hagel with a still-impressive statewide approval rating of 64% . Even amidst one of the ugliest political campaigns in Nebraska history, Nelson maintains a place tied for 13th most popular Senator in the country.

By that same standard, the high-flying Hagel would be in a six-way tie for 29th. Not bad, but - having used Ricketts to throw everything and the kitchen sink at his supposed arch-nemesis - Hagel has to be disheartened that this was the best he could do.

4 Comments:

Blogger Vigilante said...

Is there an outside chance Hagel will jump for the White House in 2008?

10/26/2006  
Blogger Don Kuhns said...

Hagel's rise in popularity couldn't have anything to do with his criticism of the bungled Iraq war, could it? I guess if anti-war candidate Jim Esch wins, we'll know the answer to that.

10/26/2006  
Anonymous nepolwatcher said...

Kyle - I asked this question before, but I'll ask it again since the Ricketts apologists never responded:

Does Pete know his leeaching staff have been pimping out his checkbook to Hagel?

I'll throw in another question for good measure: Does Pete think he got his money's worth in the astronomical salaries he's paid to the people who have advised him to run the most negative campaign in NE history and in the process forever destroy his credibility?

Pete will have plenty of time to ponder those questions in 12 days.

10/26/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good analysis of RINO Hagel's cadillac ride through the 06 elections here. "New York New York" Hagel's people are all over the GOP campaigns, very possibly to quell any rebellion against him while running up to 2008

10/26/2006  

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