Republicans Worried About Adrian Smith (And They Should Be)by Kyle Michaelis
In a communication sent last week seeking volunteers to help [Adrian] Smith turn out the GOP vote, Republican State Chairman Mark Quandahl wrote: “The 3rd District congressional race is going to close.”
Quandahl shows good sense in recognizing that Smith is in trouble. And, the more voters pay attention - the more they look at the record - the more trouble Smith will be in. Scott Kleeb continues to impress people across the Thrid District. Both Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that Kleeb beats Smith in person, on paper, and on the issues.
Add in the fact that Smith has sold-out the interests of his constituents to the dangerous, anti-farm programs Club for Growth, and even the most die-hard of Republicans are hard-pressed for a reason to support him over Kleeb if they care about rural America.
In trying to defend the hundreds of thousands of dollars in special interest money he'd taken in Friday's Omaha World-Herald, Smith already laid the groundwork for his eventually succumbing to the Club for Growth's extremist position. At the same time, a fellow Republican state senator who served with Smith throughout his years in the legislature raised new and very significant doubts about Smith's leadership:
As of the last campaign report, Club for Growth members had given more than $400,000 to Smith's campaign, well over half of his contributions....
Smith said it was his record of opposing tax hikes and the estate tax and his support for President Bush's tax cuts that won the club's backing....
"My contributions are an endorsement of my record," Smith said....
Smith said Club for Growth knows that he differs with the group on farm policy. He pointed to a recent radio interview in which Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said Smith doesn't agree with the group "100 percent."
"We need a slight change (in farm subsidies), not revolutionary change," Smith said.
In a "perfect world," he said, subsidies could be ended gradually, "but we have to be realistic, and that's what I've been for the past eight years."
Interviews with several lawmakers produced mixed views on Smith's effectiveness as a state senator, though almost all agreed he was pleasant to work with....
Smith's hard-line stance against a tax-hike package in 2002 during a state budget crisis cost him political capital with some lawmakers and admiration from others.
"He voted against every budget, but he didn't articulate any particular thing that needed to be cut," said Sen. Don Pederson of North Platte, chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. "That doesn't accomplish anything."
Pederson, a Republican, said he was concerned about Club for Growth's involvement in the campaign and Smith's contention that he doesn't have to support its views. "It doesn't work that way," he said.
That's some "realist" who votes against every budget with an eye on future elections without offering any actual ideas for what cuts he'd like to see.
What's funny (and scary for the Third District) is that Smith already has a record of changing his mind to position himself with the Club for Growth and to keep their flow of contributions coming in to his campaign. When the Omaha World-Herald last profiled Smith before the primary (Apr. 18), he had not yet grown so cautious about hiding the Club for Growth's influence:
In an interview, [Smith] said he would have voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Later, Smith called back and said that after more contemplation he had changed his mind and would have voted for CAFTA.
That later stance puts Smith in line with the Club for Growth, but Smith said the group's support had nothing to do with his position on the trade pact.
"Nothing to do with his position." Nope, nothing at all. As Sen. Pederson remarked above, "It doesn't work that way." And, to think, the Club for Growth has funneled at least another $100,000 into Smith's campaign since that first demonstration of just how far their money will go.
A sucker may be born every minute, but Smith seems to be counting on every last one of them being voters in the Third District. That isn't going to be the case this November. The people are on to Smith, and the Republican Party knows it. That's why Adrian Smith needs all the help he can get. That's why Scott Kleeb can win this election.