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Bruning Presses Hagel

It seems as though state Attorney General Jon Bruning (R-Neb.) is no longer content to sit on the sidelines and wait for Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to decide whether he wants to run for president, run for re-election to a third term or retire from politics.

Bruning made clear yesterday that he is considering a run for the Senate whether or not Hagel decides to seek re-election, citing Hagel's outspoken criticism of President Bush and the war in Iraq as the impetus for a potential primary challenge.

Hagel's office dismissed Bruning's move as immaterial to the Nebraska Senator's decision. "If he decides to run, his political future will be up to the people of Nebraska," Hagel spokesman Mike Buttry said. "Jon Bruning will not have anything to do with it."

In the past few months, Bruning has made little secret of the fact that he would be interested in a run for the Senate if Hagel decided not to seek re-election. Elected in 2002, Bruning is the youngest attorney general in the country. He was re-elected last November without opposition and is seen as a rising star within the party. A number of other GOP candidates had said they would consider the contest if Hagel bowed out including Reps. Lee Terry and Jeff Fortenberry, former attorney general Don Stenberg and 2006 Senate nominee Pete Ricketts. Former Gov. Mike Johanns who is now the Secretary of Agriculture, would likely be Republicans' strongest candidate in an open seat scenario.

But, the state's top cop was clearly getting restless and this move seems designed to smoke a decision out of Hagel. The political world expected that decision in early March but Hagel punted -- much to the chagrin of aspiring politicians hoping for some clarity.

Should Bruning and Hagel face off, it would be the second high stakes Republican primary in Nebraska in the last two cycles. In 2006, Rep. Tom Osborne -- the beloved former coach of the University of Nebraska football team -- took on Gov. Dave Heineman in the GOP primary. Osborne started out far ahead but Heineman ran the superior campaign and ousted the pigskin legend.

While Hagel's emergence as the most persistent Republican critic of the President's Iraq policy creates some peril for him in a Republican primary dominated by voters who tend to still be supportive of that policy, defeating incumbent Senators is no easy task. The last incumbent Senator to lose in Nebraska was David Karnes (R) who after being appointed in 1987 to replace the late Sen. Ed Zorinsky (D) lost to Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) in a race for a full six-year term in 1988.

Speaking of Kerrey, his name is apparently being included in a Senate poll being conducted in the state, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Kerrey held the Senate seat from 1988 to 2000 when he retired and became president of The New School in New York City. He has expressed little interest in returning to elected politics since then and did not return an email seeking to gauge whether he would consider a 2008 bid.

The most likely candidate for Democrats in the event Hagel vacates the seat is Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey. Fahey mas met with both Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and has said he would consider the race if the seat opens up.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 19, 2007; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I doubt that any significance exists about former Sen. Bob Kerrey's place in the poll. I'm pretty sure Kerrey's done, and I fully expect him to jump on Fahey's bandwagon. If Hagel runs for reelection, he may face this primary challenge from Bruning and the fight might hurt the GOP's standing in that race. In this case, Myr. Fahey will likely be the Dem nominee. If Bruning comes out on top, I expect Fahey to be the frontrunner. If Hagel retires, former Gov. and current Ag Sec'y Mike Johaans would be the frontrunner for the entire race if he ran, and would probably be uncontested for the nomination. I doubt he'd face Fahey in the general. I think Fahey would know that running against Johaans is just a waste of time, and decline to run. If Johaans passes on the race, I would expect Bruning to keep running, but could be challenged by many Republicans, including: former Rep. Tom Osborne, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, and former Myr. Hal Daub of Omaha. I doubt Gov. Dave Heineman will run, since he was very recently elected Governor. If Johaans and Heineman pass, there is sure to be a contested GOP Primary. A bitter primary could hurt the GOP nominee, and if Myr. Fahey runs, I imagine he'd attract no primary challenge. The winner of the GOP Primary could fall victim to Fahey after a bitter primary, which would likely give Fahey a visible weakness to exploit. Despite how well the field may work out for Dems, they may lose the seat. Even if Fahey is unopposed for the nomination and the GOP nominee walks away from a primary victory into the general election limping due to a bitter primary, the Dems could still lose. In a presidential year, conservative turnout would be maximized, which could propel almost any Republican to the Senate seat. This would be less likely if a moderate to liberal presidential nominee (like Giuliani or Romney) emerged, because the radical right might sit on their hands and not vote. In the 1996 Senate race, Sen. J. James Exon (D) had retired. Democratic Gov. Ben Nelson was the frontrunner, and was widely expected to win. However, it was a presidential year, with the conservative Dole at the top of the ticket. On election day, Hagel beat Gov. Nelson in an upset, 54% to 46%(though Nelson won Kerrey's Senate seat two years after he left the Governorship in 2000). Basically, any Republican has a chance, but a bitter GOP Primary coupled with Fahey being uncontested in the Dem Primary could give the Dems an edge.

Posted by: J Perez | April 20, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

It would propably be a smart political move for Jon Bruning to run against Hagel. If he wins the nomination, he would be the next US senator of Nebraska. Now, I doubt seriously he would win the primary. Even if he lost, he still has his current post b/c he's not up for re-election until 2010. He basically has nothing to lose here and everything to gain.

JayPe, I've heard Bloomberg/Lieberman for unity 08'. It looks like their going pro war and socially liberal. Bloomberg and Lieberman certainly don't have the same economic views, which the Unity party may say fits, so they can sit down and work out what is best for the constituents of the nation and our overall financial health. Although they may have to look elsewhere, b/c if Guiliani or McCain wins the Republican nomination I don't think Bloomberg would run. If Romney wins, things could get interesting. It would be really something if Romney won the Republican nomination though, b/c Bloomberg could literally self-fund his own campaign with whoever the VP.

As for Hagel as VP, I dont see that happening unless it is with the Unity party. Def. not Republican or democrat. Guiliani would likely pick Steve Forbes or David Vitter (senior senator of La.). Romney would try to pick Condi, but I doubt she would run. So he'd have to look elsewhere. Perhaps Tommy Franks or Jim DeMint (senator SC) would be his picks. McCain would be likely to go Pawlenty (gov. of Minn) or Sanford (gov. of SC).

Posted by: reason | April 20, 2007 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I had the chance to meet Jon Bruning. I couldn't have been more surprised when I met him. He is smart, motivated and excited about doing some good. It's not that Hagel is not conservative enough, it's just than no one knows where he stands. I think people know where Bruning stands. He would be good for the senate - Nebraska'a lucky to have him.

Posted by: WIlliam | April 20, 2007 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Hagel may run on both tickets, but its unlikely he'll get on the Repub nomination for POTUS. He may get VP in order to consolidate the social conservative vote, and also help the nominee be more popular with the general population on Iraq (can't oppose Iraq in the primary obviously).

Any more word about Unity08? Hagel, Lieberman & Bloomberg are the three most common names mentioned as suiting that platform...

Posted by: JayPe | April 19, 2007 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I see that incredibly inane and moronic kingofzouk is still around and contributing nothing to this site. Has anyone given him his shots yet today?

Posted by: concerned citizen | April 19, 2007 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I see that incredibly inane and moronic kingofzouk is still around and contributing nothing to this site. too bad.

Posted by: ignorant coward, inc. | April 19, 2007 9:12 PM | Report abuse

RE: Senator/possible Presidential candidate Chuck Hagel

Why can't Senator Hagel run on both tickets--Senator in Nebraska, and Republican Presidential Nomination?

Senator Lyndon Johnson did this for President and Vice President in 1960, and Senator Joseph Lieberman did this for Vice President in 2000.


Jackson Rip Holmes

Posted by: Jackson Rip Holmes | April 19, 2007 7:47 PM | Report abuse

And who stood shoulder to shoulder with Ned Lamont on the night he defeated Senator Lieberman?

I wouldn't call it pandering, I'd call it stupid.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2007 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so you're complaining that the Democrats are pandering to Al Sharpton. Why shouldn't they speak at the event of a former presidential candidate and influential leader?

Do you completely agree with everyone who has influence over Republican politics? Or do you accept that some people in your party have different priorities than you, and also accept that your candidates will sometimes talk to those peoples' representatives?

Posted by: Blarg | April 19, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Better Al sharpton than Jerry Falwell, or Pat Robertson.

Posted by: Andy R | April 19, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

blarg -It's pandering to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sharpton, Mr. Big, The Man to See, the straw that stirs the drink.

Everyone refers to this as "kissing his ring"; at times, Democrats seem willing to kiss even more.

Not long ago, he was a demagogue, a race-baiter, a menace-and acknowledged as such, by all but a fringe. Day and night, he worked to make an always difficult city -- New York -- even more difficult, more tense. Now, however, he practically rules. He is a kind of Establishment.

His record -- as galling as any in our politics -- is overlooked, excused, or shrugged off. It is to him that every (Democratic) knee must bow.

An amazing thing has happened in Democratic politics: Al Sharpton has become King.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 19, 2007 5:31 PM | Report abuse

So now it's pandering for Democrats to support civil rights, an issue that's been a major part of the party platform for 40+ years?

Posted by: Blarg | April 19, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I see that incredibly inane and moronic ignorant coward is still around and contributing nothing to this site. too bad.

Posted by: kingofzouk | April 19, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

If Hagel wants to run for president, he'd better hurry up. He's already way behind in the Al Sharpton primary...

This election, the high-profile Sharpton, fresh from the fight over Don Imus' derogatory remarks, is attracting all the party's major candidates this week for his annual National Action Network convention.

The solid attendance - starting with John Edwards on Wednesday and continuing with Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama later this week - reflects Sharpton's prominence in the party, concern that he might run again and the Democrats' effort to appeal to the base, particularly black voters.

No wonder the event was being called the Sharpton primary.

"I think some people really believe that we have put these things behind us; that the civil rights movement took care of all that and everyone is on a level playing field now," Edwards said in prepared remarks in which he talked about bigotry, intolerance and the Imus controversy.

In his remarks, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, a Sharpton rival in 2004, said Sharpton's commitment to civil rights was manifest in the crop of current contenders.

Shameless pandering by the libs as usual.

Posted by: proudtobeGOP | April 19, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Shame on the media vultures and blood-sucking leeches for going for the ratings and playing displaying the rantings of a psycho who's access to guns the NRA would defend to their last drop of blood. I don't want anyone to know anything about such sickos because it will make anti-gun legislation easy to pass. He should go down in nameless ignominy but someone with exactly the same psychosis should still be allowed to buy guns whenever they want.

Posted by: Original thought hurts my brain | April 19, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

As an Omaha resident, I can say that Fahey does enjoy popularity in Omaha. He was just re-elected in 2005 with, I believe, 60% of the vote.

Posted by: Andy | April 19, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Shame on the media vultures and blood-sucking leeches for going for the ratings and playing that psycho's rantings. If I ever feel the need to be famous, I can be sure the ghouls at NBC et. al. will gladly oblige. I don't want to know anything about this sicko or see his face ever again. He should go down in nameless ignominy. You so-called journalists are lower than a snake's belly. shame on you.

Posted by: kingofzouk | April 19, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you Hagel 2008, these decisions need be made judiciously and should not be rushed. However, need I remind you that we are no longer living in normal political times. The necessities of fundraising have changed the meaning of "judicious" to 18 months in advance.

Posted by: Howard | April 19, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

How sad that Mike Fahey is the only democratic contender in the whole state. He isn't even well liked in Omaha.

Posted by: Iowahipchick | April 19, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Why are we in such a rush for a presidential campaign, or a Senatorial campaign. We just elected the 110th Congress.

Decisions to run or not run should be made more judiciously. Good for Sen. Hagel for taking his time. It's good to see someone seriously consider all the consequences.

Posted by: Hagel 2008 | April 19, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Republican Rep. John Doolittle of California has decided to give up his seat on the House Appropriations Committee in the wake of FBI agents searching his house in a congressional influence-peddling investigation.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

christ how many canddiates does the gop need?

Posted by: slim | April 19, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

It looks as if Fahey is much more inclined to run for re-election than for Senate.

Posted by: Va Blogger | April 19, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm from Nebraska and all I have to say about Bruning is AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Posted by: A girl | April 19, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Kerrey left office in 2001.

Seems like Bruning is just trying to force Hagel to make a decision and get a jump on the other possible challengers.

Posted by: Andy | April 19, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

If Hagel runs he will whip this Young Buck. Nebraska is definitly a Red State but they like their Senators to be pretty moderate. Not to mention this Bruning guy looks like a used car salesman.

Posted by: Andy R | April 19, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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