Thursday, April 19, 2007

NE-Sen: Huh? What? and How come?

by Ryan Anderson
Today, the 2008 Senate race left Chuck Hagel's hands. Unfortunately, it also left a whole lot of us would-be pundits and prognosticators scratching our heads. There is no other race in the country in such a state of flux. Here's what we know:

* Attorney General Jon Bruning is willing to enter the Republican primary even if Hagel runs for re-election. He stopped short of announcing a run, but his statement leaves little to the imagination:
Senator Hagel voted with the Democratic leadership against President Bush on the most important issue facing our country... It's extremely counterproductive. I'm very concerned about the morale of our troops and the potential comfort given to the enemy, who knows now that they can wait us out.
Simply put: you don't declare war unless you're ready to fight. It just doesn't make any sense for Bruning to start hurling these bombs unless he sees an opening in this race. And for those of you keeping score at home, that's one point for Harold Anderson, nada for me. Oops.

* Bruning's announcement comes on the heels of Hagel's completely unimpressive first Quarter fundraising: a haul of $143,663 (not exactly a presidential sum) for a Cash on Hand total of $230,214 (compare that with COH total of $113,911 for the late Jim Exon, who hasn't been in the Senate for 12 years and hasn't been on this Earth for the last two).

* Meanwhile, Mike Fahey isn't exactly sounding like a Senate candidate. While careful not to rule out a statewide bid, he's been busy ramping up a mayoral re-election campaign, complete with a $100,000 fundraising dinner earmarked for a third term in City Hall (and not transferable to a hypothetical federal campaign).
I'd hate not to be around to see some of the projects through," Fahey said. "I don't think there has ever been a better time to be mayor of this city.
* Finally, this bombshell from Don Walton about some mystery organization conducting a poll for former Senator Bob Kerrey... who hasn't expressed any interest in the race and doesn't even live in this state anymore.

So where does that leave us? Scratching our heads and waiting to see the pieces fall into place. But first, a few thoughts:

I'm not yet convinced Bruning is an easier target for Nebraska Democrats than Hagel would be. True, it would be possible to run to Bruning's left on the war, but it's the very unpopularity of Hagel's Iraq rhetoric which has made him vulnerable in a Republican constituency that constitutes over half of the state's electorate. Bruning has the advantages of any statewide incumbent in terms of name identification and fundraising, but he's still a relatively fresh face who has managed to avoid isolating large sections of his idealogical base.

Then again, I just got schooled by Harold Anderson, so what do I know?

And Bob Kerrey? Seriously? The man was a terrific public servant who is still rather beloved across this state, but we've just seen similar goodwill dissipate in an instant when former Senator John Breaux tried to return from Maryland to Louisiana to run for the governor's office. Senator Kerrey has demonstrated a certain wanderlust throughout his career (retiring from the Governorship after only one term, announcing for the Presidency only a few years into his Senate career, retiring from Congress when he was nearly assured re-election), and it wouldn't be surprising to hear that he's considering a return to public life. But does that mean a run for the Senate in Nebraska? Doubtful, very doubtful.

For the moment, the Democratic nomination remains in Fahey's hands. Though not my first choice, Mike Fahey has been a terrific administrator for the City of Omaha and would make a formidable candidate against whomever the Republicans decide to nominate. But will he decide to run? Will Scott Kleeb, or Hal Daub for that matter? I don't think any of them know just yet. They're all probably just scratching their heads and waiting for the pieces to fall into place.

Who could blame them?

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Anonymous Dave Sund said...

Well, I can say that I was on the money about Bruning, which, of course, doesn't erase all of the times I was wrong about everything else. But, for once, I feel like I saw this one coming. I am a little shocked that it happened this early, though. I'm guessing that Bruning's fundraising numbers are looking strong relative to Hagel's.

Bob Kerrey? I heard this one on Monday night from a friend who got the poll, and dismissed it out of hand. I don't know why someone's polling Kerrey - they might want to push him into the race - but it's highly doubtful that he's going to run.

Mike Fahey? I'm not too worried about that. He's hedging his bets right now. Suttle and Vokal are raising a bunch of money, and he needs to make sure that, if Hagel decides to run again, he can still run for reelection, and that it doesn't look like the city of Omaha is his second priority (which it isn't).

Make no mistake about it: Jon Bruning is running against Chuck Hagel. It won't be easy if Bruning is the nominee, but it will be competitive. We need to be prepared for either outcome, and I hope that Fahey, Kleeb, or some other strong candidate considers jumping in the race regardless of Hagel's plans.

Anonymous Tom Green said...

Bob Kerrey should run for Senate in New York. He can take President Clinton's place in the senate.


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