Apparently, judging by Jon Bruning’s rhetoric lately, and his meeting with the New York Sun’s editorial staff to tip the off to his impending announcement, he’s made a calculated decision that his campaign is going to be all about running against Chuck Hagel. It’s a calculated gamble on Bruning’s part. For one thing, we’re not sure if Hagel’s even going to be running.
But more than that, Bruning appears to be positioning himself as the extreme right-wing candidate in the Republican Party at the same time the state as a whole seems to be embracing more moderate positions on the issues of the day. It might win him the nomination – in fact, for the primary, it’s positioned him as the leading candidate assuming Hagel doesn’t run – but it’s going to hurt him badly when we get to the general election.
Bruning’s attacks on Hagel have been almost exclusively about the war in Iraq. Hagel’s forceful criticism of the President’s policy in Iraq has earned him disdain among Republicans in Nebraska, and Bruning’s trying to capitalize on that. Unfortunately for Bruning, there’s still a lot of Republicans, and even more Nebraskans, who have a great amount of respect for Chuck Hagel, and Bruning’s going to alienate a lot of those people if he continues to run as the “anti-Hagel.”
But it’s clear why Jon Bruning is doing it this way: he doesn’t have anything to run on. We’ve already gone through this race in 2006, with the Republican saying that absolute loyalty to Republican orthodoxy was the most important consideration for voters. That candidate lost his race by a landslide.
I feel confident that given the choice between a Democrat with an exemplary record of public service, and Jon Bruning, the people of Nebraska will choose the former every time. The candidate who wins this race is the one who makes the best case for their own ideas.
UPDATE: I can’t believe I’m going to actually say this, but check out Leavenworth Street’s take on Bruning’s announcement. It made me laugh.