We figured out about a couple weeks ago here at UNO Dems that Lee Terry was running for reelection, and not the Senate. It wasn’t until Thursday that we figured out why. We’re ready to say with a great level of confidence that Chuck Hagel is running for reelection, and that Jon Bruning will challenge him for the nomination.
All signs right now are pointing to Chuck Hagel running for a third term in the U.S. Senate. Consider:
- Bruning’s announcement last week, complete with attacks on Hagel’s record.
- Bruning’s poll which pits himself against Hagel in a Republican Primary.
- Hagel’s responses to Bruning’s announcements, complete with attacks on Bruning’s past.
- The Nebraska Congressional delegation’s willingness to listen to overtures from Sen. Fred Thompson.
- Mike Fahey’s increased focus on raising money for a reelection bid in 2009.
- Bob Kerrey’s insistence that he is 99% sure he won’t run despite his polling to gauge interest in the race, complete with a de facto endorsement of Hagel.
- Chuck Hagel’s scheduled May 18 fundraiser, hosted by Governor Dave Heineman, and supported by some powerful local business interests.
- Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, making a visit to Omaha for that fundraiser in May.
The final two items seal the deal. Chuck Hagel is running for reelection. Given his statements on the war, his votes on the Iraq supplemental, there is no way in hell that Mitch McConnell would even want to be seen in the same room as Chuck Hagel for a fundraising event, let alone headline the event for Hagel, unless he had assurances from Hagel that he was running for reelection to the Senate. This should also be a key signal of where the National Republican Party will throw its weight. I’ve long thought that if Hagel ran for reelection, it would play like a Republican version of the Lieberman-Lamont primary in Connecticut, 2006. Hagel has powerful forces behind him in the Republican Party, and Bruning’s in an unenviable position right now. If he fails, his career in Nebraska politics is over. Hagel will – once and for all – claim his supremacy over the Nebraska Republican Party.
It’s time for someone real. It’s time to get up off the mat and say “enough.” The Democratic Party will have a real opportunity to offer a true alternative to Nebraska’s voters. Things being the way they are in politics, you’re not going to find a political insider willing to run for this seat. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
At this point in 2005, I had no idea who Scott Kleeb was. I knew Jim Esch’s family, but had no idea that Jim was running for Congress, and no way of knowing the kind of revolutionary campaign he would ultimately wage.
The point is this: we will find a candidate. Someone will be willing to run for this seat. And if we don’t, then we should just fold up our tent right now and go home, because we don’t deserve to be called the Democratic Party.
You’ll forgive me for using this space as my soapbox. I haven’t done it in a while on issues of intraparty politics, but this is something that needs to be said. I realize that a number of the individuals responsible for the attitudes I’m going to address are no longer employed by the state party, but that does not mean the attitude does not still exist. I offer the standard disclaimer right now: these are my opinions. I state them without reservation. I do not speak for UNO College Democrats, or the Nebraska Young Democrats. With that, I offer a few suggestions to the state Democratic Party leadership for the 2008 cycle:
- You are not the whole party. We – the voters, the members, the volunteers, the activists, and the candidates – are. Don’t forget that. It is not your choice who is and is not a Democrat. And no one has to ask you for permission to run.
- You work for us. It’s not the job of lesser-known candidates to demonstrate viability before the state party gives them respect, let alone support. Either the state party works for all candidates and works to lift up the entire state party, or it’s simply a means to funnel money from the national party to one particular candidate’s campaign. It’s clear to me what the state party was in 2006. It’s my sincere hope that we don’t repeat that mistake in 2008.
- This is the race of 2008. We cannot continue to concede statewide contests before they even begin. If we concede this race – a race to clearly demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Republicans in this state are only interested in dragging politics into the mud, while the Democrats are ready to offer real alternatives for the good of all Nebraskans. Chuck Hagel and Jon Bruning will be fighting for the hearts and minds of Republicans. Our candidate will be the candidate for Nebraska. If we miss this opportunity, we can’t claim any successes in 2008.