Friends With Benefits - Ricketts Buys Hagel a Bounceby Kyle Michaelis
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.