It was certainly interesting that Omaha City Councilman and Bruning supporter Chuck Sigerson decided to get out in front of this one on behalf of Bruning, using the “don’t meddle in our primary, Washingtonians!” line.
Except that you don’t use that when talking about the President of the United States (from your party).
Not to mention that the President will likely choose his words very carefully when talking publicly about Johanns. Count on him to say something along the lines of what he said at Johanns’s retirement announcement like “Mike would make a great Senator”. He’s not going to say, “Nebraska Republicans should vote for Johanns” or “Jon Bruning sucks eggs.”
The more level headed (official) Bruning camp had a better response when Jordan McGrain said, “Lets’ wait and see what the President has to say.” They will then likely pounce on the non-endorsement, for what that’s worth.
But look at the big reasons Bush is showing up for Johanns in the first place. First, Johanns was his Secretary of Agriculture. He was a loyal cabinet member and didn’t make waves.
Second, and very importantly, the entrance of Mike Johanns into this race kept out Bob Kerrey.
You can argue all day long about whether Kerrey would have been the favorite in the race (as Bob Novak wants to), particularly if it had been a Bruning-Daub match up in the GOP primary. But make no mistake that Kerrey would have made it a difficult fight for Republicans. The Bush trip may have even been a promise Johanns got out of the national party if he entered the race. The visit isn’t so much an endorsement (even though it is) as it is a “thank-you” to Johanns for getting in and scaring off the Democrats.
And while Bruning supporters may want to cry foul on this visit during the primary, Bruning may also have brought a bit of this on himself. Remember when the wrath of Bruning came down on Chuck Hagel for not supporting the President on Iraq? Well that same wrath came down on Hagel…and Johanns…for supporting the President’s immigration bills.
And then there was the line from Bruning about Johanns being the President’s “lap dog”. These are the little things that can come back to haunt you when you’re not being judicious in your language.
Of course the biggest boost Johanns will get from the visit will be cash into his campaign coffers. Any advantage that Bruning had money-wise will soon dissipate. Can the Bruning campaign counter this? What will their strategy be? We wait.
And for Creighton basketball fans, 2 ½ words: P’Allen Stinnett.