The thrust of the entire discussion seems to be dependent on Senator Chuck Hagel not seeking re-election if a Democratic candidate is to have any realistic chance at victory. Alas, if history is any guide, the already thin ranks of top tier Democratic contenders would most likely sit-out any race against an incumbent Hagel.
Although Hagel certainly has his problems with President Bush's loyalist Republican base, it's pretty damn hard imagining that discontent running deep enough to jeopardize Hagel in a primary challenge. Of course, some disgruntled Republicans want to imagine that Dave Heineman's victory over Tom Osborne in the 2006 gubernatorial primary was some sort of activist uprising offering a model to take-out Hagel in similarly surprising fashion. But, these people are entirely oblivious to the extent of Hagel's reach in the Nebraska Republican Party - which was only solidified by Heineman's election.
Heineman's victory was the triumph of an institution that Hagel was not only instrumental in building over the last decade but over which he and his staff assumed almost complete control in the 2006 election cycle. The question for Republicans then becomes not whether any candidates could defeat Hagel but, rather, whether Hagel has already chosen his successor for them.
Back to the discussion of potential Democratic challengers, I have to agree with the argument put forward by Nebraska's own Dave Sund at Swing State Project that the top prospect is Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, followed by that champion of rural America Scott Kleeb, after which there is a pretty steep drop-off in terms of probability and electability - if not quality - for any of the other suggested candidates.
In fairness, my NNN compatriot, Ryan Anderson, makes a strong argument for Kleeb's being better positioned to make the leap to a statewide race, but the experience, the record, and the resources Fahey could bring to the table are all powerful assets to which he alone lays claim.
As for the other names that arise, none of them scream instant credibility. But, I enjoy outlandish speculation as much as the next guy and encourage anyone with an intriguing theory to share it at Swing State Project and right here at the New Nebraska Network.