Before I begin, remember that I think I’ve had about two accurate predictions concerning Nebraska politics in the last couple of years, and one of those came just yesterday when Jon Bruning basically announced he was challenging Chuck Hagel for the Republican nomination.
So, when I heard rumors on Monday about a poll that was going around asking a bunch of questions about Bob Kerrey, I readily dismissed it. “There’s no way he’s running for Senate.” I still believe that. But it did intrigue me. Who was polling for Bob Kerrey, and why?
Turns out it was Paul Johnson, a longtime Kerrey advisor, who most recently helped orchestrate winning campaigns for Senator Ben Nelson and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey. Johnson did so at Kerrey’s request. The Omaha World-Herald has more:
WASHINGTON – Former Nebraska Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey recently tested the waters for a possible U.S. Senate bid, but he said Thursday evening that there was only a 1 percent chance that he would run again – and only if GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel didn’t run for re-election next year.
Kerrey asked his longtime political adviser, Paul Johnson, to gauge public opinion on him. That led to Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman’s sampling Nebraskans’ views with some telephone calls. Hickman didn’t conduct a full-fledged poll, Kerrey said.
Kerrey said he was told that the results were “the same old stuff. Some people like you, some people don’t.”
This isn’t the first time that Kerrey has flirted with a return to politics. In 2005, he briefly considered running for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City before deciding to drop out. But it’s that very brief flirtation that would doom him in the eyes of Nebraska voters. We saw what happened in a similar situation, a Louisiana institution, John Breaux, considered seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor, only to drop out amid concerns that his residency in Maryland would become an issue in the campaign. Kerrey is no less an institution to us here in Nebraska. But his career in elected office is over, and given the kind of slime that was thrown at him toward the end of his final term in the Senate, I’m not so sure he’d want to go through that again. And, anyone who knows me, knows that I’d have some serious reservations about giving the Democratic nomination to Bob Kerrey – one issue, above all else, will be in play in 2008, and Kerrey is unfortunately on the wrong side of that issue.
So, what’s the state of play, now?
- Our strongest Democratic candidate, Mike Fahey, has said in no uncertain terms that he will not run if Chuck Hagel runs for reelection. Bob Kerrey has now said the same. He also says there’s only a 1% chance, if Hagel does not run, that he’d run for Senate.
- At the moment, Chuck Hagel is looking very vulnerable in his own party. Between weak fundraising numbers and Jon Bruning’s challenge, retirement might be looking like a pretty good option for Hagel right now.
- If Hagel runs, and loses in the primary, as of right now, we have no candidate even sniffing at the race under that scenario. And Bruning, especially if he’s running against Hagel, is quite beatable in a general election. Provided, of course, we have a candidate who knows what he/she is doing.
I’m still sticking to my guns, that if Chuck Hagel drops out, Mike Fahey will jump in. We’ll have to see, in the next few months, how Bruning’s decision effects our candidates’ timetables.