Despite the fact that Andersen’s admitted survey sample was eight GOPers, there must have been a few in that octet who had a little knowledge of Attorney General Jon Bruning’s intentions.
In case you missed it, Bruning said that he may just challenge Hagel in a primary because, “he is upset with Hagel’s criticism of President Bush and the Iraq war,” and that “he also is upset with Hagel’s comments about Bush and impeachment,” (Bruning may yet take on Hagel in ’08 – OWH – 4/19/07).
But let’s not pretend that it’s any recent statements by Hagel that have prompted Bruning to announce his (possible) move.
Hagel has been protesting the Iraq War since nearly the day he voted for it (if you follow). For over a year he has been considered the leading Republican against the war and has made any number of statements against the war and the President’s handling of it. So Bruning can’t now claim that he’s shocked – shocked! – by Hagel’s war position.
And then there’s the “impeachment” issue. Hagel’s interview in the April edition of Esquire Magazine was published on the web, and quoted by nearly every major news outlet on March 6, 2007. (Though contrary to Harold Andersen’s assertion, Hagel did not say that there was “talk of impeachment”.)
So EVERYONE knew what Hagel said at that point. Chuck Hagel then made his non-announcement-announcement on March 12. And on March 15 Bruning announced that he was thinking about running, but TWICE said he wouldn’t, if Hagel ran. Heck Bruning called himself a “Hagel guy”. This is the same Chuck Hagel who just nine days prior had used the “I-word” in reference to President Bush.
So what has changed for Bruning? Well, probably lots of people whispering in his ear that they don’t like what Hagel has been saying. And probably there’s more than a few of those people who have Tony Soprano-like wads of cash rolled up in their pockets and are telling Bruning that he could have access to said wad if he challenges Hagel. (And the fact that Hagel has only raised $100K for a re-election bid didn’t hurt either.)
But make no mistake: If you go after the King’s throne, you had better kill him, or you’ll be dead yourself. If Bruning does not defeat Hagel in the primary, it is career suicide for him. Oh, and Bruning better also make sure no one else jumps in, or as Harold Andersen also pointed out, they would split the anti-incumbent vote and Hagel would stroll in. (And don’t forget that Hal Daub, who also has announced that he’s thinking about the Senate, did this once before when he challenged sitting-Senator Dave Karnes.)
So old Harold Andersen – the man who once hoped for the appointment by Governor Orr to the Zorinsky seat that went to Karnes – and a confirmed Hagel-hater – seems to have had a few ducks in a row before last Sunday’s column. Hagel’s office is now saying that Bruning’s new statement won’t influence him on whether or not to run for President or re-election. But don’t be surprised if it does influence Hagel – to run specifically against Bruning to knock his block off.