So with that in mind, let’s look at an issue – at this point, the ONLY issue – in the nascent Senate campaign between Jon Bruning and Mike Johanns. But let’s look at the issue from the political, campaigning point of view.
Jordan McGrain, manager of the Bruning for Senate campaign, is making his best efforts to hammer Johanns on the immigration issue. The Bruning camp wants to tie Johanns to his support of last year’s failed immigration bill, which he campaigned for while President Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture. That bill contained the much debated “path to citizenship” which many claimed was “Amnesty!” for illegal aliens. As a member of Bush’s cabinet, Johanns argued for comprehensive immigration reform, but argued that the “path to citizenship” was not amnesty.
The recently rejected DREAM Act had similar provisions, but Chris Peterson, campaign manager of the Johanns for Senate campaign, said specifically that Johanns opposes the DREAM act and was “pleased with its defeat”.
The Bruning camp has countered that Johanns past statements as Ag Sec showed him “in favor of amnesty before he was against it,” using the line that Bush battered John Kerrey with in 2004.
Now here’s an interesting note: at this point no one in the Nebraska Main Stream Media has picked up on this discussion. Is this because 1) they accept Johanns’s statements for now; 2) they’re biased towards Johanns; or 3) they’re just waiting for the Bruning ads on the subject to discuss it? Hmm.
In any case, currently, Bruning and Johanns have similar, if not identical positions going forward on immigration. Johanns spelled his out as:
1) border security and that means stopping illegal entry across the southern and northern border;
2) no amnesty whatsoever;
3) verifiable workplace enforcement and sanctions for employers who fail to follow the law;
4) those who have come here illegally must go back to their home country and start the immigration process over without preferential treatment; and,
5) if you’ve come here illegally and have committed a serious crime, you lose your chance at becoming a citizen.
When asked, McGrain said the highlights of the Bruning immigration plan are:
Opposing amnesty and public benefits like in-state tuition…extending the fence and increasing manpower and technology, and empowering state and local officials to enforce existing laws and expeditiously detaining and deporting dangerous aliens and gang members. (He also encourages law enforcement to participate in) the 287(g) program, which would give local law enforcement access to DHS databases and funds for training.
Now we list these, not so much to argue about Johann’s position, but to show that the positions of the candidates are nearly identical. So the Bruning camp’s argument boils down to, “he argued for something different while he was Ag Sec – can we trust him in the future?”
And we’re not really sure where this gets the Bruning camp.
Everyone is looking back at the Governor’s campaign where the in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants became one of the top two issues. But the difference there was that there was a real difference. Tom Osborne was for it, while Dave Heineman was against it. If TO had said, “I was for it while in Congress, but I’m against it now,” it would have been a much different, watered-down issue. And probably not a factor at all.
People mainly want to know what a candidate is going to do in the future. Voters most likely understand that Johanns was pushing his boss’s position, and are unlikely to hold it against him. But while people seem to have accepted Johann’s position on immigration for now, will things change after they’ve been subjected to a barrage of Bruning ads claiming Johanns favors “Amnesty!”? At that point, will Johanns listing his going-forward positions satisfy those who vote based on this volatile issue?
Of course, keep in mind that such ads won’t be in a vacuum, and you can bet that if (and when) Bruning presses this, the Johanns camp will pull out all of Bruning’s Daily Nebraskan columns, and it will simply turn into a pissing match of “yeah, well he said this.”
So where does that put Bruning? We don’t know, but at this time, he seems to be betting his campaign on that issue. Is that one issue enough to beat the Johanns Juggernaut ©. Are there any other issues out there that can separate these candidates? Are there issues where they believe, going forward, they’ll do things differently? (Definitely in style, but is that enough?)
So what say you, Leavenworth Street readers? Putting aside whether the DREAM Act is good or bad, is the Bruning campaign’s strategy worthwhile? Does it have a chance to get traction? Will it pull over GOP voters?
We can guarantee that both campaigns want to know…