He did two different events, a morning “news conference” and a later “kickoff” event at UNO.
The attendance at the morning news conference was sparse.
I want to preface this by noting that I like Chip, I think his heart is generally in the right place. We both even went to the same high school and college (though our 4 years never overlapped) And he has some decent ideas.
But at this point, as near as I can tell, he has zero campaign organization and little to get him where he needs to be in order to make a real challenge to Don Bacon’s campaign for the Republican nomination.
Maxwell made his announcement at the Omaha Press Club, 22 flights up at the Downtown DoubleTree by Hilton. (Great view of Creighton and North Omaha out the window.)
Joining me at the event were a cameraman and reporter from KMTV Ch. 3, and Margery Beck from the AP.
And that was it.
No supporters. No staff. No volunteers. No onlookers.
Just the 5 of us in a small room high up over Omaha.
Now granted, I was not at Maxwell’s later event at UNO. I assume he had more family and friends there. From new reports, there were more chairs filled up and maybe more media there.
In the morning, here was Maxwell’s room:
And here was the room at Don Bacon’s announcement on a Wednesday morning back in March (more cameras set up on the right, out of picture):
Now does the campaign kickoff mean Bacon would make a better representative than Maxwell? No.
But it does mean that Bacon has a campaign organization and is taking it very seriously.
Maxwell stated — on the day of his official announcement — that he is “still talking to people and organizing staff”…for a campaign that he announced, essentially, back in July of 2014.
That’s not to say he can’t have a “muscular campaign”, as he calls it. But shooting for January 2016 to be “busting out the door full throttle” of a full-fledged effort gives a very brief campaign season to tone those campaign organization muscles.
Maxwell did make some interesting points, particularly in regard to Bacon. He noted that he has much more legislative experience than Bacon. Though he did not note Congress’s responsibility regarding national security, military and foreign policy issues, in which Bacon has plenty of experience.
And he made a point about Birthright Citizenship, where he argued he differs from Bacon (saying Bacon argues we’d have to amend the Constitution).
And he noted that his main focus is on the danger of Deficit and the Debt, and he wanted to hammer that point. And it’s a good one.
Though during his 27 minute prepared statement, I don’t believe he offered any specific solutions on the issue. I know he has written a book on the topic, and he has some bullet-points on his website. But this would have seemed as good a time as any to trot out a plan that could get the public’s attention.
But Maxwell had a few points of disconnect as well.
He addressed the issue of challenging Lee Terry last year as an Independent candidate — which he eventually dropped. He summed it up in much the same way he has on his campaign website:
If I could have written the script: Terry hands the baton to me and goes out a winner and statesman, and we hold the congressional seat.
Yes, it would have been awesome if the sitting Congressman, a subcommittee Chairman who had been in office for 16 years had just handed over the office. Who wouldn’t want that?
But Hollywood, and sometimes After School Specials, make those movies using that script. Not Members of Congress.
And many Republicans are still unhappy with the way things went down the last time. They feel that Maxwell’s actions helped to create Congressman Brad Ashford. And they are not so quick to forgive and forget.
And then just for good measure, I asked Maxwell about his position on the Death Penalty repeal (though certainly less a Congressional issue than a state one).
He basically came down on the side of, mistakes can be made, so he doesn’t want to put people to death OR use the death penalty to get false convictions (pointing out the Beatrice Six).
That’s a legitimate argument on that issue, and I have no problem with that.
But he followed up saying, that assuming the signature petitions go through, he has no problem following the will of the people of Nebraska.
But he specifically did not sign the signature petition.
Because he wants the Death Penalty repeal to go through.
But he is fine with the will of the people, if they choose to keep the Death Penalty.
Which I get…
But on this point, let’s note the distinction:
You either want the Legislature to decide, or you want the Voters to decide.
Which is a separate issue from whether you are for or against the Death Penalty.
People can be for the Death Penalty, and not want the vote in 2016 because they believe the issue should be decided by the Legislature.
And people can be against the Death Penalty, and believe it should be decided by the voters.
But being against the success of the signature petition means you don’t want the people to vote on this issue. And if the only reason you don’t want the people to vote on the issue is because you might lose, then that’s not a principled decision.
That may be practical. But it’s political.
And Maxwell didn’t seem to want to concede that point.
And the Death Penalty and the Debt and Immigration and whatnot are all issues that can be debated.
And Maybe Maxwell can put a campaign together in the coming months.
Maybe he can get enough cash to be the answer to a well-funded and organized primary against Bacon.
Maybe Dan Frei’s efforts in 2014 show that you can have a shoestring budget against a well-funded candidate and still push through.
But if a candidate does not have a significant, serious organization to play on the big Congressional field, not much of that may matter.
Some various and sundry as we approach the weekend…
* If Chip Maxwell or Don Bacon want to see how difficult it is going to be to knock off Brad Ashford, just read Mike Kelly’s OWH column/love-letter about him. That won’t end from the OWH — unless there is some sort of strange primary challenge for Ashford (which I don’t see). Or possibly world or national events take over.
* I am generally loathe to even bring up an issue about a politician’s family. And I am not going to host a discussion on this subject, except to note this one point: I get that the OWH felt the need to report on the arrest of Shane Osborn’s son. And it’s hard not to note the office Osborn held, etc. But adding Shane’s photo to the story was absolutely unnecessary and completely unrelated to the story.
* On this anniversary of the attacks on September 11th, we all note where we were on that day, our reactions, and that we must never forget and continue to be on guard against those who hate us and our way of life.
It is interesting that there is already a new generation who have no real memory of those events. They have never seen the twin towers over New York, and assume airport security has always been crazy.
The museum and fountains at the base of the new Freedom Tower in lower
Manhattan provide a powerful and vivid memorial. But also a little closer, if you’re ever Dallas, swing over to the George W. Bush Presidential Library (on the S.M.U. campus), and see the well-documented, emotional account and display of the day that we will never forget.