Don v. Jon

Our takeaway from the Don Stenberg announcement yesterday:

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.


  1. Anonymostly says:

    SS, I like it: “If you think Don Stenberg can beat Ben Nelson (which he never has before) then you should vote for Don Stenberg.”

    I have a question, though. Was Chuck Hagel a lifelong Republican?

  2. 9:42,
    While that may be true, JB also needs to get beyond that. He can’t just be “the guy with the best chance to beat Nelson”. He needs to be “the guy who should replace Nelson” — if he’s not that already.

    And Hagel was a lifelong Republican, up until a few years ago.

  3. GeosUser says:

    Chalk up yet another losing Senate bid for Stenberg. Just who is going to give this guy the big bucks he’ll need to get past Jon and lose to Ben???

  4. Anonymous says:

    Please tell me there aren’t 14 months of the Don/Jon Show to endure. Was it necessary to start the Senate race this early when no one is going to pay attention until Spring of 2012?

  5. Out West says:

    Donny and Jonny can beat each other up, and damage each other to their hearts content. When Deb Fischer comes waltzing in, looking like the voice of reason, they both are going to be in shock when the girl wins the prize.

    Fischer has more balls, brains and back bone than Bruning, Stenberg, Johanns or Nelson.

  6. Dennis says:

    Charlie Janssen has really stepped into it in this whole immigration debate. Janssen is losing ground fast as he continues to humiliate himself. First, he accuses law enforcement officers of “shirking their duty” and now he claims that “real Nebraskans” support his bill. I guess the police officers from Omaha and Lincoln are “shirking” their duty and aren’t “real Nebraskans.” Somebody stop Charlie before he inserts his foot into his mouth again. Yikes!

  7. WTF says:

    Dennis, I’m guessing he said that about the police because they seem to spend more time talking to the papers whining about how much extra work they’d have to do than actually just doing their job. Say, isn’t it about time for contract negotiations again?

  8. NE Voter says:

    If by “real Nebraskans,” Janssen is referring to knee-jerk reactionaries who line up like lemmings to support hateful and divisive (not to mention unconstitutional) legislation, I’m glad to be among the “unreal Nebraskans.”

    This is the big moment this guy has been working toward for 2 years, and he is self-immolating now that he’s on the big stage.

    God, term limits really screwed up the Legislature.

  9. WTF says:

    “knee-jerk reactionaries”
    Someone’s been up early dusting off the liberal playbook.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Real Nebraskans? Who are they? Good question. I guess any one who lives in Nebraska.. Now Janssen only thinks that is people who agree with him. Think if a democrat had said this. The outrage would be huge. But republicans can say anything they want. Just ask them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It’s getting scary out here in ANONville as a Marion County judge has ruled, for the first time in Indiana, that news media outlets can be ordered by the court to reveal identifying information about posters to their online forums.

    People needs to be aware of this single ruling. I’m sure all of you can find the article on line.

  12. To anon @9:26am says:

    That hopefully gets overturned. IN fact, journalists don’t have to reveal their sources, how could this hold up? Scary stuff.

  13. Lawyer says:

    Newsroom searches and Sources for News gathering are protected in most jurisdictions. Is a comment board news gathering? That is the real issue.

  14. Anonymostly says:

    Real Nebraskans? Who are they? Good question. I guess any one who lives in Nebraska.. Now Janssen only thinks that is people who agree with him. Think if a democrat had said this. The outrage would be huge.

    Wrong. If a Democrat had said that kind of thing, Republicans would just ignore it. Conservatives ignore most of what liberals say. Most of it is just standard liberal claptrap and doesn’t merit a response. I would ignore you, too, but I’m feeling charitable today and think you might benefit from my superior wisdom and knowledge.

  15. Anonymostly says:

    Oh, and I should also say hello, Bud Pettigrew. The indicia of your posting style are all over that mess at 9:01 a.m.

  16. Anonymous says:

    And hello to you too, RWP.

    I don’t know if that was Bud, but I agree w/ him. All of the “Real Nebraskan” and “Real American” stuff drives me nuts, especially when the GOP uses it to woo rural areas. They say stuff like “It’s so great to be here in (insert small town name here) where the Real Americans live” and “this is the real America,” then two minutes later use phrases like “liberal elitists.” How can we be second class citizens and elitists at the same time? Please stop falling for these lines.

  17. Macdaddy says:

    I have to laugh. You liberals think people are significantly swayed by a few choice words? LOL. Let me clue you in: it’s your crappy policies. The choice words are for fun.

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