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.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.
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.”
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?