A political commentator’s plate this week is piled high with appealing items. Where to begin?
Before turning attention to Tuesday’s humiliation of President Obama and his Congressional “chief of staff” the hugely unpopular Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, let’s take a close look at one of the nastiest campaigns which I can recall.
I refer to Democratic efforts to replace Republican Second Congressional District Representative Lee Terry with State Senator Tom White, an attorney who, so far as I am aware, never distanced himself from the Democratic campaign tactics and pretty consistently joined in them.
The “get Terry” campaign started on the political low-road in mid-2009 with radio ads irresponsibly implying that Terry did not support funding for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and providing support for military families. Then late last year TV ads charged that Terry had catered to “big oil” interests. The ads offered no evidence in support of the accusation.
Then after last May’s primary election, Democrat White declared that Republican Terry should be held accountable for Offutt Air Force Base in Sarpy County losing the chance to become the home of a new nuclear warfare command.
To suggest there was anything any single member of the Nebraska Congressional delegation could have done to change the Air Force’s decision was simply preposterous.
TV Ads And Mailings Stay On ‘Low Road’
Then came a series of television advertising ads and mailings to voters’ homes throughout the Second Congressional District which accused Lee Terry of being willing to risk Social Security benefits by investing some of the Social Security trust funds in the stock market.
Talk of the possibility of investing some Social Security trust funds in the stock market originated with a certified Democratic liberal icon, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, and drew some favorable consideration from another Democratic liberal, Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
What Lee Terry might or might not have said about the possibility nearly a decade ago has no relevance to a political campaign in 2010.
Then there were the ads in which, wearing a white shirt open at the collar, White worked to distance himself from the Democratic Party, asking for votes for “Nebraska independence” in the person of Tom White.
In one of the flood of TV ads, White said Congress should cut Congressional salaries until the budget is balanced. In another ad he said Congress should freeze Congressional salaries until the budget is balanced.
Another ad called for an end to wasteful spending like “the Bridge to Nowhere.” White didn’t explain why this outdated issue involving a bridge in Alaska years ago had any pertinence to his efforts to unseat Terry.
Bottom Line: Terry Wins By Nearly 23%
The bottom line to this story, of course, was what happened at the polls Tuesday. The World-Herald top-of-the-front-page story eight days earlier had been headlined, “Race Remains Competitive.” The story said that The World-Herald Poll showed that Terry had a 44%/39% advantage over White, then quoted a UNO political scientist as saying that since the numbers were within the poll’s margin of error, “the candidate who is down can win.”
The election results eight days later: 88,293 votes for Terry, 55,409 for White—61.44% for Terry, 38.55% for White—a near 23% victory margin for Terry.
Even liberal national TV commentators said that the real individual losers in Tuesday’s balloting weren’t any of the defeated Democrats but rather President Obama and Nancy Pelosi.
There can’t have been many times in American political history when a once self-confident president, elected with a decisive margin as Obama was, has slipped so far in popularity less than two years after taking office.
The tactics of trying to blame former Republican President George W. Bush for all of the nation’s problems simply hasn’t worked.
Reid Re-Election Not All That Bad For GOP
The misfortune of having Nancy Pelosi as his principal spokesperson in the Congress was not, of course, Obama’s doing. The House chose her, the first woman to hold that position.
Tuesday’s election at least assured that Pelosi won’t hog the Congressional spotlight for another two years.
But the Congressional seniority system will return that inept bumbler, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, to his role as Senate Majority Leader.
I have a different slant on Reid’s narrow victory (which can, of course, be blamed on “Tea Party” activists for helping give the Republican nomination to a candidate even weaker than Reid).
I think the Nevada Senatorial election was a win-win situation for the Republicans. If Reid had been defeated, it would have given Republicans an additional seat in the Senate. But with Reid’s re-election and the Congressional seniority system still in play, the Republicans can take some satisfaction in the fact that the leadership of the Senate majority will continue in the hands of a senator with so little forceful leadership ability.
(A New York Times headline had put the choice facing Nevadans last Tuesday this way: “For Nevadans, A Case of Hold Nose and Vote.”)
The extent of Obama’s humiliation can perhaps be best demonstrated by the fact that the Illinois Senate seat which Obama briefly occupied as he started his effort to become president went Tuesday to a Republican.
An ABC commentator said that merely hanging on to that seat would have been “a great victory for the Democrats.” Well, the Democrats didn’t hang on to the seat, which was won by Representative Mark Steven Kirk, an attorney and Navy Reserve officer who has served on active duty as an intelligence officer, including in missions over Iraq.
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Enough About The Elections;
Let’s Talk Some Football
Those three dropped touchdown-certain passes in the Texas game may yet prove to be the cause of an unhappy departure of the Nebraska Cornhuskers from the Big 12 Conference.
I hasten to add that the Huskers are in control of their own destiny. If they can keep winning with the caliber of play they demonstrated against Missouri last Saturday, they can become both champions of the Big 12 North Division as well as the Big 12 Conference itself in a divisional playoff game in Dallas December 4.
But here’s why handing victory to the Texas Longhorns in Lincoln October 16 could conceivably make it easier for the Missouri Tigers—or the long-shot Iowa State Cyclones—to emerge as North Division champions. (The Huskers can take a major step toward eliminating the Iowa State championship possibility by beating the Cyclones in Ames Saturday, giving the Iowa Staters their second loss against a fellow North Division team. The first loss was at Kansas State last month.)
The worst case scenario: Under little-publicized Big 12 Conference rules, a North or South Division team can have an undefeated record in its division but not represent that division in the conference championship playoff in Dallas November 4.
The controlling rule is that all conference games have to be taken into account. If there is a tie between the two leading contenders in all-conference wins and losses (in this case, the most likely possibility for a tie would be between Nebraska and Missouri) the division championships goes to the team which won the game between the two teams which tied in the most wins and fewest losses in all eight of their conference games.
If both Nebraska and Missouri go undefeated the rest of the Big 12 season, they would be tied at seven wins and one loss apiece in all conference games, but the North Division championship would go to the Huskers because they beat Missouri (decisively, you will recall) in Memorial Stadium last Saturday.
Husker Control Their Own Destiny
But suppose Missouri’s only loss is last Saturday’s game, and the Huskers lose one of their final four regular season Big 12 games. The greatest threats would appear to be at Ames tomorrow or, more likely, against rapidly improving Texas A&M in College Station November 20th. At-home games against Kansas and Colorado would find the Huskers the odds-on favorites.
A single additional loss, added to the loss suffered at the hands of the Texas Longhorns, would give the Huskers a 6-2 record in the conference, compared to Missouri’s likely 7-1 record. And that is how last Saturday’s decisive victory over Missouri could possibly be nullified by a 6-2 Husker conference record against Missouri’s predictable 7-1.
I’m betting that the Huskers bring to those last four games the same quality of football they exhibited against Missouri last Saturday, thus avoiding the possibility of another regular season Big 12 loss.
Such a loss would, of course, be the result all the other teams in the Big 12 would be hoping for, especially Missouri and the bumbling, stumbling Longhorns. Both Missouri and Texas could claim credit for helping send the Cornhuskers to the Big 10 next year with an embarrassing departure from the Big 12.
But what Missouri does or Iowa State does won’t make any difference if the Huskers run the table their last four games, including what shapes up as a potentially tough test against the Texas Aggies in that November 20 game in College Station.
A four-game sweep would, of course, open the possibility for the ultimate happy departure from the Big 12—a victory in a conference championship game against the South Division champion, perhaps traditional rival Oklahoma.
As to that game in Ames, Iowa tomorrow. Let’s hope that the Huskers, the heavy favorites, don’t create another opportunity, like last year, to make an Iowa State season a success by virtue of a victory over traditional nemesis Nebraska.
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Excellent Coaching Involved In Win Over Mizzou
Some thoughts left over after that coach-satisfying team-satisfying, fan-satisfying 31-17 victory over Missouri.
The remarkable 307-rushing-yard all-time Husker record set by Roy Helu understandably, but in a sense unfortunately, got such spotlighted attention that you had to search through a number of the myriad of sports page stories to get the full picture of the quality of the Husker performance.
On an inside page you read that the coaches had—especially for Missou—designed a three-man defensive line, with a defensive end acting as sort of a roving linebacker. That strategy almost completely frustrated the Tigers’ rushing game.
A substantial share of Missouri’s 142 rushing yards came on plays in which Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, frustrated in his efforts to pass, ran for yardage—sometimes good yardage—and finished such runs by running out of bounds to keep from being tackled.
The geared-for-Missouri defense resulted in six sacks of Gabbert. His passing produced only 109 yards and a single touchdown on 18 completions and one interception in 42 passes—the result of the effective pass rush and the tight coverage of receivers by Nebraska’s highly-rated defensive secondary.
In another example of Cornhusker coaching effectiveness, mentioned on another story in an inside page, the coaches benched two veteran deep safeties and replaced them with better tacklers who performed admirably in their first starting roles.
Roy Helu himself, in a 21st paragraph quote on an inside page, gave a typically modest realistic appraisal of facts which, combined with his speed and ability to cut quickly to take advantage of a hole in the defense, played a major role in his record-breaking performance. Helu said:
“I couldn’t explain how much I feel for my linemen and fullback. They deserve as much credit as I do, just down the line, even with our guys who rotate on the offensive line. I know how easily we could focus on the record and the individual, but it’s a team sport. I just really appreciate my teammates.”
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How Big Was Win Over Mizzou?
Commentator Can’t Make Up His Mind
To finish on a lighter note:
In a Saturday morning pre-game column and a Sunday morning post-game column, one media commentator yet again looked—well, let’s be kind and just say inconsistent.
The morning of the game, the commentator challenged Husker Head Coach Bo Pelini, telling him to “show me” that he is ready “to win the kind of game that decides seasons and legacies.”
The morning after Pelini had coached the Huskers to a decisive 31-17 win over the Tigers, the same commentator took a 180-degree turn and wrote: “There are no signature wins for Nebraska football coaches. There are only signature seasons.”
Sixteen paragraphs later, the commentator reversed field again and described the Husker victory as “a game that would define his [Pelini’s] third season…”
So from the kind of game that decides “seasons and legacies” to a non-signature game that doesn’t define a season to a game “that would define his third season.” The reader apparently can take his pick.
This reader would say, “None of the above.” A single game with at least five more in regular-season and post-season play—you can’t, at this stage, define any game as the kind that decides a coach’s legacy or even “defines” a season. When the season is finished, we might look back and apply such a description to a particularly noteworthy season-defining win, but it’s too early for that.
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