Good News for Jon Bruning Is Bad News for Nebraska Republicans?by Kyle Michaelis
Attorney General Jon Bruning has released a poll of 404 likely Republican voters in the 2008 Nebraska primary to bolster his case as the front-runner in the Senate race, whether incumbent Chuck Hagel seeks re-election or not. Bruning's numbers show him beating Hagel in a head-to-head match-up 47 - 38%. They also show Bruning with a head-to-head advantage of 55 - 16% over former Congressman and former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub . . . which would be quite impressive if it weren't for the fact that they pit him against Hal Daub.
But, while Bruning might find lots to celebrate in this poll, the picture is not so rosy for Nebraska Republicans as a whole. For starters, when asked about the direction of the country, with more than 20 months left in George W. Bush's presidency, a full 55% of Nebraska Republicans say the United States is on the "wrong track." Only 30% said the country was moving in the "right direction." That's a remarkable level of pessimism that speaks to a deeply divided and demoralized Republican base that knows it has no one to blame but its own elected officials for the failures, the corruption, and the partisan excesses of the previous six years.
In terms of raw favorability, Nebraska Republicans were still able to rally behind Gov. Dave Heineman - who led the pack with the favor of 82%. Meanwhile, 61% thought highly of Bruning - better than Hagel's startlingly-low 52% favorability or Daub's 39% (which still seems a little bit high if you ask me).
But, it's the unfavorable ratings that are the real story here. 18% of Nebraska Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of Daub, with twice that many - a full 36% - having a negative opinion of Hagel.
The real kicker, though, might be the fact that more than a quarter of Nebraska Republicans (26%) have an unfavorable view of Bush - their own president. I'm guessing there's not a whole lot of cross-over between the 26% who dislike Bush and the 36% who dislike Hagel, painting a picture of a Nebraska Republican Party in which more than 60% of its voters are practically at war with themselves.
There's also evidence of a serious disconnect with reality in the Nebraska Republican Party rooted in its self-imposed, reactionary ignorance in all matters concerning the Iraq War. Of those voters who were so disfavorable towards Hagel, 16% said it's because "he's critical of the Bush Administration," and 12% said it's because "he's not loyal to the Republicans." Clearly, that's a whole lot of Republicans who are so consumed with the desire to believe what they want of the Iraq War that they'll also believe whatever they want of Hagel - whose 2006 voting record rated him as the most loyal Republican to President Bush in the entire U.S. Senate.
So, really, that 60%-plus of Nebraska Republicans who've found so much to dislike about Hagel or Bush might still be able to find some common ground realizing they dislike Hagel AND Bush.
Now, that's a Republican Party I could get behind!
By the way, there's one other measure that should either really worry Nebraska Republicans or at least call into question the methodology behind Bruning's poll results. Looking at the demographics of those polled, only 12% were under the age of 40, while 34% were ages 65 or older.
I know Nebraska has an aging population, but that's going to quite the extreme. Maybe Bruning's baby face goes over especially well with the nursing home crowd, who might also be more inclined to bristle at Hagel's Iraq War criticism. Either way, it sounds like Bruning has his work cut out for him. If he runs, not only does he have to get his voters to the polls, he also needs to keep them out of the grave.