Nebraska Politics: Start-Your-Engines!

The old political saw is that the campaign doesn’t really start until after Labor Day (or until every fan at Memorial Stadium has a campaign sticker). So as Ben Nelson and Pete Ricketts get ready to stomp the accelerator in this season of Nebraska politics, Leavenworth Street is going to look back at the month of August to check the change in momentum to their bandwagons as they rev into the post-Labor Day campaign.

1) Lou Ann Linehan temporarily takes the helm of the Nebraska GOP

Linehan provided much experience and a sharp political mind at the NEGOP. This provided a little balance to the two pronged attack of the Nelson camp and the Nebraska Dem Party.

Campaign Momentum Change:
Nelson: Slight Decrease
Ricketts: Increase

2) Ben Nelson’s Hunting Chateau and the taxes thereon
While it blunted just about any criticism he had of Ricketts’ property tax valuations, Nelson didn’t take nearly the hit we thought he would (and should) have. The fact that he basically lied… er, made a mistake to get a tax break, then dismissed the idea of paying the entirety of his back taxes, instead of just the past three years, seemed outrageous to us. The Nebraska press, however, lumped it in with all the other bickering about property taxes. When Nelson joked about it at the debate, it got the biggest laugh of the afternoon. (Oh, those wacky tax-cheats!)

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Slight Decrease
Ricketts: Slight Increase

3) Ben Nelson’s “Western Town in Nebraska” song
It was stuck in my head for an entire afternoon (though not necessarily in a good way). This is the kind of folksy silage people eat-up. (And we’ll admit that we liked the accompanying “Nebraska World Tour” shirt, but we’d like some commission on the use of the Nelson-hair shot.) And Ricketts needs help in the small towns…

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Increase
Ricketts: Decrease

4) First Debate
See our debate reviews here, here and here. The few things that came out of it were the reference to Joe Ricketts’ land in Wyoming, and the Nelson letter regarding his willingness to consider the Fair Tax. We think this really just set the stage for the River City Wrangle © on September 10th.

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Increase
Ricketts: Increase

5) News that Bill Clinton is coming to Omaha in October
Nelson claims that he has never heard of this Clinton person; asks if he is related to Delbert McClinton.

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Decrease
Ricketts: Increase

6) Kate Witek jumps parties
We think Republicans were secretly glad to be rid of her. Now she’s the Dem’s problem.

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Decrease
Ricketts: Increase

7) The August Rasmussen Poll
Slowed down the Ricketts bandwagon, and probably was one of the sources for the President’s hesitancy to campaign in Nebraska for Ricketts…as of yet. Ricketts will need some movement in the September poll.

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Increase
Ricketts: Decrease

8) The Campaign Ads
Early on, we liked the Ricketts-talking-to-the-camera ad. He then expanded his “issues” ads to Immigration and Taxes. If voters are going to get a barrage of them, they should at least be able to tolerate these. At some point, Nelson’s drum-beat about the Flat Tax, and the negative press it has received, may just hurt him.

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Slight Decrease
Ricketts: Increase

9) The Vice President comes to visit
Big Time Republican comes to town — good for Pete (and the rest of the GOP). Mentions Pete’s name — good for Pete. Won’t come in to town for Pete — bad for Pete. Pete rides on Air Force Two (at his expense) to Wyoming — good for Pete. Doesn’t actually talk to the VP on the flight — Baaaaaaaaad for Pete.

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Slight Increase
Ricketts: Decrease

10) Nelson tours Nebraska DisastersNelson checks out the drought; names it David. Nelson checks out the wildfire damage in Chadron; names it…Frank? Or Fred? Freida? (Ok we made that last part up, but if he had, they probably would have thrown a parade for him in Chadron.)

Momentum Change:
Nelson: Increase
Ricketts: Decrease


What does it all mean? It means that while this is still a competitive campaign, Pete Ricketts is still lagging behind the pro, Ben Nelson. Nebraskans, even the GOP, want to like their U.S. Senator, and Nelson plays it well. But Ricketts is still keeping pace and Nelson is absolutely not taking him for granted. This should at least encourage the Ricketts camp. The national scene will absolutely influence this race, and we should have a good idea where this is all going come October.

In the mean time Leavenworth Street will be dutifully watching.

4 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Gotta disagree with you on the ads and the debate. On the debate, I think Nelson was the clear winner. I actually really thought his line about telling the guy where to go was great–made him seem like a regular guy who has feelings, but can’t always show them because of his office.

    The second is the ads. Ricketts ads are good, but they’re quoting an inaccurate story in the World Herald. I watched the debate, and Ricketts clearly said that he was willing to put the fairtax on the table and Nelson wasn’t. I think it’s an absolutely fair criticism. If Ricketts said he wanted to study segregation, everyone would think he’s nuts, right? What’s so different from considering that and considering a tax plan that is clearly meant to lower taxes for the wealthy and raise taxes for everyone else?

  2. Street Sweeper says:

    While I appreciate a calm discussion here on the comment board (for once), you’re wrong on a number of points. While you can certainly argue that Nelson won the debate (and we have come just short of saying that), Nelson’s “regular guy” rant about the Fair Tax proponent was a prepared act. Nelson wrote the letter telling the guy that he would consider the aspects of a consumption tax long before the guy wrote back to say he wouldn’t support Nelson.

    Nelson’s slamming of the consumption or Fair Tax came only after the campaign figured out that it would be a good wedge issue against Ricketts. Considering or studying changes to the tax code makes sense. While you may not support the current Senate bill, aspects of it could be good in the future. Saying that it’s “clearly” good for the rich and bad for the poor is buying into the demagoguing that Nelson is selling. Heck, even the freaking Omaha World Herald agrees that Nelson is wrong on this (even though they WILL endorse Nelson in November).

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think the World Herald’s sole interest is in having a horse-race. And I’m not “buying into” anything. I went and read the reports Nelson cited in his ads, read the report from the President’s Tax Commission, and I’ve read the FairTax book. This sales tax plan is shady accounting at its best. And that’s why it hasn’t gotten out of committee in a Republican-controlled House or Senate after both Hastert and Bush said positive things about it.

    And we’re just going to have to disagree on Nelson’s intentions with this constituent. It sounds like you’ve seen more of the correspondence than the letter that was made public. Care to share?

  4. Street Sweeper says:

    We’re really not that interested in the argument about whether the Senate Bill version of the consumption tax works or not – though most, including Ricketts and Nelson agree that it doesn’t. Though that hardly means that aspects of it shouldn’t be considered.

    The point is that when Nelson first responded to the Fair Tax guy, he said he was interested in studying it and listening to testimony in committee. Then after Ricketts expressed interest in it, Nelson suddenly HATED the idea, and in the debate claims that he was just being polite to the constituent. (Our only sources are the guy’s letters and Nelson responses on the Fair Tax website which we’ve already linked to.)

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