Monday, July 02, 2007

Bruning Cashes In as Hagel Considers His Options

by Kyle Michaelis
From the Associated Press:
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said Monday that he had raised $721,200 by the end of June to prepare for a possible campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Bruning’s campaign said more than 80 percent of those donations came from Nebraskans, including a few prominent donors like legendary Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne and billionaire Walter Scott, retired CEO of Omaha construction giant Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc.....

Bruning’s campaign released preliminary fundraising figures on Monday even though his quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission isn’t due until July 16....

Hagel has said that he will make an announcement about his political future later this year.

Hagel’s political director, Kevin Chapman, said Monday the campaign won’t report its fundraising figures until the deadline, “but we’ll be well beyond $700,000.”
There's no doubt about it - that's a hefty chunk of change Bruning has managed for himself, quite impressive indeed if major Republican donors are still under the impression that Hagel might actually run for re-election.

Still no word on how much Omaha businessman and Bruning Campaign Finance Chair David Sokol has given to each candidate after last month's leak of Sokol's letter on personal stationary promising Hagel his financial support on whatever course he decides. More even than the somewhat dubious claim that Hagel's fundraising figures will be "well beyond $700,000," this silly little anecdote in the early days of the 2008 campaign is all the illusration one needs of Hagel's desperation and lack of confidence at the prospect of a Bruning challenge.

Although some are claiming quite assuredly that Hagel will not be running for re-election, my own not-particularly-insightful reading of the situation suggests he hasn't yet made up his mind what he's going to do. Rather, I suspect Hagel is keeping those cards close to his vest and his ear close to the ground still looking for the angle that best serves his interests and his ambitions (in his mind, probably even his country).

Rest assured, none of these options include getting beat by Bruning in a primary battle, but Hagel might be forced to commit earlier than he'd anticipated just to keep a potential Hagel-free race with Bruning competitive....unless plans are already in place for former Gov. Mike Johanns to step in and assume control of "the Hagel faction" in a seamless transition. In fact, it wouldn't surprise if Johanns had privately committed to deferring to Hagel's decision and, at our most fantastical, perhaps even waiting in the wings to assume a Senate appointment from Gov. Heineman should a jointly elected Senator and Vice President Hagel need to relinquish the former post.

Like it or not, Hagel is going to be a solid V.P. consideration for most any Republican candidate who gets the presidential nomination because of his singularly mainstream position on the Iraq War that would offer a near immediate balancing of the hardline stance each candidate is likely to maintain through the primaries. His actual combat experience and mostly undeserved reputation as a maverick would also likely be held assets to any of the potential Republican nominees.

If Hagel is angling for the V.P. slot, though, a high-profile primary challenge could alienate him even farther from the Republican base, making him a less attractive option. But, so too might Hagel's resigning himself to lame-duck status in the Senate if he foregos a re-election bid and just sits in the Senate with his fingers crossed hoping his prince shows up with his glass slipper. If Hagel looks like he was spooked away from the Senate by a primary challenger or like he's lost his drive for public service, his movement towards retirement could prove deadly to his own ambitions.

But, again, what the hell do I know. I'm just tossing hypotheticals out there. Honestly, what do you think?

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Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

"Although some are claiming quite assuredly that Hagel will not be running for re-election, my own not-particularly-insightful reading of the situation suggests he hasn't yet made up his mind what he's going to do."

For what it's worth, I think the same thing. I especially don't understand why Chris Cilliza's comment that "no Republican insiders think Hagel's running" has gotten so much play. I sincerely doubt any "Republican insiders" know what he's up to. If they did, they wouldn't have whiffed on the press conference. If they really thought he was out of the running, why send McConnell for a fundraiser?

That said, I just really don't see Hagel backing down from a fight with Bruning. Maybe, ultimately, he does, but I don't think he's got his tail between his legs just yet.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I am too bitter to let this go, but what about President Bush commuting the sentence for Scotter Libby?! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ABOUT! Even Bush supporters saw this as an uncharacteristic move on his part. Granted wanning Presidents always do something ridiculously stupid right before they exit office (President Clinton's fiasco with pardoning the illegal financier...), this just takes the cake! I hope that the few remaining Bush supporters see this as the final straw for dealing with his incompetence!

Now that I am done with that rant, Bruning will never have my support because he never was all that appealing to me in the first place. I love how he misquotes the 2000 ballot election of initiative 416, saying "70% of Nebraska voted against same sex marraige." Well if that being the case then I guess more than half of all eligible voters in Nebraska voted, which is an absurd statement because I am under the impression that only a little more than one third voted in that election. 70% of Nebraska...please Bruning, use some common sense when you are talking about the electorate.

Luke Peters

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

The reason I lend so much wait to Cilliza's comments - and those of Republican insiders like Tony Raimondo - is because it reflects the reality that Chuck Hagel will have to deal with should he decide to run. The longer he waits, the more support he is going to drain. If no one thinks he is running for reelection, that hurts him politically. In the eyes of Nebraska Republicans, Chuck Hagel is already a lame duck. That's the significance.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

wait = weight. I shouldn't type when I'm just waking up.

Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

That's a fair point, Dave. The predictions certainly cost him some points politically, which makes them significant enough to report. But I seriously doubt they reflect any real understanding of Hagel's motives. We're still groping blindly, probably (as Kyle suggested) because Hagel hasn't made up his mind just yet.


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