Monday, April 23, 2007

Good News for Jon Bruning Is Bad News for Nebraska Republicans?

by Kyle Michaelis
Chuck Hagel vs. Jon Bruning - Round Two

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.

Scorecard Through Two Rounds
Jon Bruning 09 - 10
Chuck Hagel 10 - 09

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first post, even though I ocassionally read stuff on here. I find this whole race to be rather intriguing, especially from an indepenent standpoint (which is what I'm registered as). I might be off my hinges but I think the opportunity could be ripe for Nebraska to turn more blue. It seems to me that there is a distinct split in the republican party in this state right now, one that will probably only increase in the next year. Now would be a perfect opportunity for democrats to start taking advantage of the rift. I believe that part of the democrats problem in NE is they have not presented solutions in a way that could win over folks. So with the Republicans bickering and fighting, why not come in and act like the level headed group that will lead Nebraska forward? If Bruning were by some chance to win the primary and Hagel does not run as an independent for Senator, or if Hagel resigns his seat and runs for president, I believe the democrat wins. The reason being is I believe the whole Republican showdown will be a huge turnoff to independent voters and most of them will likely support the Dem in '08 (possibly for president too). Also, the rift might cause more republican voters to stay at home in '08, especially if they are un-impressed by the republican presidential candidate. As I said, I could be off in left field on this analysis, but I believe the timing is about right for Democrats to make huge gains in the state of Nebraska (which by the way, I would mostly support).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the past, at least the 80's and early 90's, Democrats were able to beat Republicans in this state because of infighting in the Republican party. The R's true nature comes out in these fights (they are nasty and will do anything to win), which turns off independents and more liberal R's. The intra-party losers also tend to not vote and may even support the Dem. Looking forward to the upcoming internecine Repub battles!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Bruning only polled himself against Hagel and Daub. Or do you suppose he polled himself against Fahey and Kleeb but those numbers weren't so good so they didn't release them?
Of course it will hurt the democrat because it will be a presidential year and Nebraska will still go for the republican no matter how bad it gets.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope Hagel loses and goes Independent like Joe Lieberman. Then the Democrat has a chance to win.

Blogger mw said...

Great series Kyle! I'll be following it with interest. I am big Hagel fan, and think he could be the road to salvation for the GOP nationally. But, if he cannot hold his own with Republicans in Nebraska, he has no shot at all nationally (Think Al Gore and Tennessee).

Just curious, how do the primaries work in Nebraska? Are they open, or do you need to declare for a party to vote in the primary? How easy is it to switch? I am registered as a Democrat in San Francisco, but will switch to vote for Hagel in the California Republcan primary if he gets in the race.

I have a slightly different take on the national divisions in the GOP. The split is between the traditional Conservative Republicans (which includes both evangelicals and libertarians) and Republicans who are best described as "Loyal Bushies". I am not using that term as a perjorative, it is exactly how they define themselves.Chuck Hagel is not a problem for traditional Republicans in the Goldwater/Reagan tradition. Chuck Hagel is not a problem for limited government, freedom-loving, libertarian conservatives. Chuck Hagel is a big problem for the "Loyal Bushie" statists.

I would like to think that the "Loyal Bushies" are wildly over-represented in the blogosphere, and there is a much larger plurality of traditional conservative Republicans in the electorate at large. I'd like to think that, but I am not sure. If the traditional conservative Republican base is alive and well, Chuck Hagel may yet lead the party back from the brink of disaster in 2008.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nebraska doesn't allow Democrats to vote in GOP primaries and vice-versa.

Hagel is okay on the war and he tweaks the Bush administration but he's a garden variety conservative Republican otherwise and a loyal Bushie other than the Iraq issue. He's touting his closeness to the President to Nebraska GOP primary voters. Take what you hear about Hagel in the national media with a grain of salt.

Blogger mw said...

Yeah, well a "garden variety" principled conservative who is against the war is exactly what I think we need as our next President. There is no one in this administration who has any idea of what it means to be a conservative.

Too bad about the primary rules. Hagel would pull from Independents and Democrats. There will be a lot of money comining in nationally from the "loyal Bushies" to beat him. If he loses here his presidential aspirations are finished. OTOH if he could get past the Republican nomination he would easily win the general election for president. Probably the only Republican who can.

I have posted a few YouTube videos for my blog featuring Hagel and got some interesting comments. Completely anecdotal and non-scientific of course, but I think indicative:

"i've been listening to what he's been saying for the past few years and he seems to be one of the few republican senators that i have any respect for."

"im far from being even 1:1,000,000 of a republican but ill damn sure vote for him."

"It's refreshing to hear a man speak through conscience and not as a mouthpiece for a political party. We could do a whole lot worse than Chuck Hagel for President."

"The Senate needs 99 clones of Chuck Hagel! Still can't believe these words came out of the mouth of a Republican!"

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of clarifications for the folks who asked about Nebraska's primaries.

1) Hagel cannot run as an independent. State law expressly forbids running for the same office after losing in the primary.

2) While Democrats cannot vote in the Republican primary, nonpartisans ("independents") certainly can. There are about 187,000 registered independents in Nebraska, but only 4,000 voted in the last Senate Republican primary. If Hagel is running, I suspect he'll target a lot of independents, too.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

Dave & MW -

You fail to consider the possibility that Hagel could opt out of Nebraska's primary and just run exclusively as an Independent. Far-fetched? Sure. But, so far that doesn't seem to be stopping things from getting more and more ridiculous with each passing day.

Deep down you know Hagel wants to run for President, but it just doesn't seem there's a place for him in the Republican field. Even though Hagel is as partisan as they come in many regards, I'm sure there's a temptation to go his own way and attempt to fashion himself a George Norris-style Independent for the 21st Century.

Except, I'd expect Hagel's auto-biography wouldn't be named "Fighting Liberal." How does "Last of the Nixon Republicans" sound?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just visited the Web site of Bruning's exploratory committee, which is woefully short of material. Am I correct that the ONLY position Bruning has taken thus far is that he is PRO-IRAQ WAR?
Republicans already in Washington are scrambling for ways to distance themselves from Bush before the 2008 election turns into a bloodbath but Jon Bruning is staking his future on Iraq?
Twenty-six percent of Nebraska Republicans now oppose the war -- a number that ought to at least double before November 2008.
Bruning is a moron to have started this fight with Hagel so early. He needs to quit listening to his sycophant buddies and get back to being AG. [Not that I would vote for Burning for any office under any other circumatances.]

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't fool yourselves. Many people are not asking what the consequences of an Iraq withdrawal. Once people start thinking about it, the public opinion will change again.

If you think I am kidding, look up the Carter Doctrine, Turkey's concern about the Kurds, and what about the wasted effort on Afghanistan?

Blogger JimEenright said...

SHOW HAGEL THE GATE IN 2008! Republican voters will reject his amnesty plan for illegal immigrants and his surrender plan in Iraq. Bruning, Daub or any credible candidate WILL beat this man who has arrogantly "gone Washington."


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