Stenberg is way down in the polls. In order to come back (over the next twelve months), he will need to hit Jon Bruning as hard as he can, repeatedly.
Yesterday was probably the best free media day he will get in a while, where everyone is focusing on him.
He succeeded in making his points about Bruning — and then Bruning succeeded in dodging them, for the most part.
Bruning’s problem is that he has the unenviable position, as the frontrunner, of having to parry Don’s thrusts, without really attacking.
Not attacking is NOT in Jon Bruning’s nature.
It is a little bit humorous to watch Bruning respond to questions, keeping calm, when you KNOW he wants to leap out and throttle Stenberg on every issue. Stenberg probably wants him to try that, to an extent, and you know Ben Nelson and the Dems want that.
There has to be a CW out there that if you prod Bruning enough times he will snap, and then it’s game on. Or some such.
You got a little tiny inkling of that when Joe Jordan was prodding him with the Stenberg stick about his office budget. Bruning had good responses all the up to, “(Stenberg) was not paying attention…”.
(Allbeit, this is Joe Jordan’s very quick sudden edit, we did not hear Bruning’s whole response, so he may have followed that up with, “…but he’s not supposed to” or “…but that was on Ben Nelson’s dime…”. So take that with a few grains.)
Something to the effect of, “we need to lay out all the facts here, when we look at these issues,” would have been a little better close. Oh, and his response to Don that he’s no Ronald Reagan (“and Don’s not either”) was hardly sparks flying.
(But hey, thanks to Joe Jordan for putting this stuff up and letting us chat about it.)
But all in all, Bruning stayed pretty calm — and frankly this long primary may be good for him if he gets the nod against Nelson.
If he can take what Stenberg and any others toss out, and remain level headed without getting angry and/or mean in his responses, it will go a long way to showing that he should take the office from Nelson.
Nelson has a way of criticizing where he almost apologizes when he’s hitting (with a sledgehammer). You rarely hear him say, “my opponent is lying!” in a hard charging sort of way. It is more like, “well, I am just putting the facts out there, and unfortunately what he is saying isn’t true…”. It is a very passive aggressive sort of thing — and very effective.
Mike Johanns does a similar thing, but Johanns is so soft spoken that when he does raise his language, you immediately pay attention. You figure that if he’s changing from monotone, there must be something important. Tom Osborne raised that to an art as a coach — you’d hear announcers point out that if Osborne was angry something REALLY must be wrong.
Now Jon Bruning isn’t Tom Osborne or Mike Johanns or Ben Nelson. And he shouldn’t try to be. But over the next year, he will have to develop a style of response to attacks, and making attacks, that doesn’t sound like he is angry or has all the answers. Sort of a “I’m presenting this to the jury of Nebraska. I trust you to make the right decision.”
That trust part is a hard statement to make sometimes — and a ballsy one.
Remember after Scott Frost led Nebraska to an undefeated season, wiping out Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, he took the mic. At that point Michigan had already won their Bowl game and Michigan was definitely, at a minimum, the co-national champ — if not the sole National Champ. The question in the country was if the Huskers should be the co-national champ. If they were worthy. (They had the “fluke” win against Missouri.)
So Frost takes the mic after the game, on the field (and I think it was broadcast to the whole stadium), and says, “if you think Michigan could beat us out here on the field, then you should vote for Michigan.”
That was after Nebraska had just crushed Peyton Manning’s Tennessee. And anyone who watched that said to themselves, “Wow. Nebraska would probably whoop Michigan too.” And that (in my mind anyway) sealed the co-championship votes for Nebraska. Sure Osborne retiring helped — but that short speech by Frost sealed it.
So at some point, Bruning will need to make a similar speech. It will need to similarly be at a point when EVERYONE is watching. Maybe paid media. But — assuming they are in a close race — he’ll need to let go, lay out his case and tell the voters that after the case he has made, if they still think that Nelson is the best person to represent Nebraska, then they should vote for Nelson. But if not…
Anywho, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Stenberg. Well, if this is just his opening salvo, Don’s probably not going to make it easy for Jon.