Monday, January 22, 2007

More Jostling for Hagel's Senate Seat

by Ryan Anderson
It's an interesting if inevitable phenomenon: the more presidential Chuck Hagel sounds, the less senatorial his would-be successors seem.

In the wake of the Bush Administration's enormously unpopular decision to increase troop strength in Iraq, Hagel has assumed the role of soundbite king. And what soundbites they are! Hagel, who even in his personal life is reportedly obsessed with Iraq and its parallels to his own experience in Vietnam, deserves credit for couching his criticisms in plain but powerful moral language that should make any Democratic presidential hopeful envious. Though Senator Hagel deserves his "mock maverick" moniker, his introduction last week of a formal if non-binding resolution opposing a troop surge at least demonstrates that his "All Talk Express" is no longer limited to running circles around the Sunday morning talk shows.

Whether Hagel will take this message to the endless rounds of debates and forums that will define this presidential primary season remains to be seen (although recent reports that he's considering an independent run appear doubtful), but happily Omaha businessman David Sokol has seen fit to give us Nebraska political junkies a sneak peek at what a Hagel-less Senate race might look like. Shockingly, the results show none other than Sokol's good friend Attorney General Jon Bruning leading all comers for the 2008 Republican nomination.

Bruning -who easily breaks 50% in head-to-head match-ups with Senate losers Hal Daub and Pete Ricketts- has sought to solidify his lead by championing a bill which would make it a crime to send any e-mail that "uses or transmits any indecent, lewd, lascivious, or obscene language". Meanwhile, Bruning's most competitive opponents, Congressmen Lee Terry and Jeff Fortenberry (curiously, former Governor Mike Johanns was not polled) have been busy voting against raising the minimum wage, funding stem cell research and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices (although, to be fair, they really, really wanted to support these measures).

You and I know that Senator Hagel is not the great maverick and savior of his party that the national media sometimes portrays him to be. He's a very conservative and rather loyal Republican. But he's also a thoughtful public servant who's demonstrated a willingness to step outside of his party's "message box", to speak the truth of his own internal convictions. The history of Nebraska politics is rife with individuals possessing these rare and admirable qualities; the Nebraska Republican Party is not.

The challenge remains for the Democratic Party to prove that they have the right man for the job.

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Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Worth noting, though, that the polls are biased in Bruning's favor - two-way matchups for all except a race against the two least desirable candidates. It's too early to know exactly what the field will look like, but Bruning's falling out with the Hagel/Heineman machine during the 2006 primary might lose him a huge amount of institutional backing. Who the favored party candidate will be is up in the air right now, but I can bet that Bruning is not the favorite of the Republican establishment, even if the rank-and-file like him.

Blogger Eric said...

Can we assume that Bruning's penchant for polling two-way match-ups is an endorsement of Condorcet voting?

Anonymous Bill said...

Jon Bruning is the same guy who compared allowing gay adults the right to marry to making it legal to marry chairs. I have never heard him apologize for that comment. Jon has some qualities going for him...he is young, not bad at working a crowd, and has a position in government that allows for considerable political exposure. He has also surrounded himself with smart people. But no one in the Nebraska Republican Party has half the smarts of Chuck Hagel.

Hagel is frankly too smart for most Nebraska Republicans. They just don't get it that he votes the straight Republican way 90+% of the time. They will cut off their noses to spite their faces. I think Hagel is more popular with Nebraska Democrats than with the GOP right now. Of course Ben Nelson is more popular with Republicans than Democrats. Then take Adrian Smith (Please!). Nebraska politics just gets curiouser and curiouser.


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