This week we start with a report from the “As I See It Political Speculation Parlor, Harold W. Andersen Proprietor.”
This week’s speculation focuses on what might develop in Nebraska politics in the four weeks before the May 13 primary election.
First, some thoughts based on some 60 years of observation, first as political reporter, then as columnist and commentator:
In close elections, and some not so close elections, the decisive margin is customarily decided by a relatively small percentage of voters who make their decisions very close to Election Day. Polls taken before those final crucial days are interesting but may or may not—probably not—indicate Election Day results, unless they are overwhelming in favor of this or that candidate.
Let’s Speculate About May 13 Primary
Some “As I See It” observations some four weeks before Election Day:
In the Republican primary contest for nomination as the party’s candidate for United States Senate, banker Sid Dinsdale’s nomination is likely if Dinsdale finishes with a strong campaign effort—stronger than he has exhibited to date.
I had just finished dictating the paragraph questioning whether and when Dinsdale is going to step up the intensity of his campaign when the mailman delivered a very effective Dinsdale mailing piece. In it, Dinsdale stresses his support of the “right to bear arms” Second Amendment, made clear he enjoys hunting pheasants and, importantly, calls attention to the support of several prominent Nebraskans, including legendary former football Coach Tom Osborne, former Governor Charlie Thone and Steve Hornaday of Grand Island, president of the Grand Island-based Hornaday Manufacturing Company whose ammunition has long been nationally popular as a top-quality product.
The two other Republicans with a chance at the Senatorial nomination may have peaked too early and, more importantly, may simply have less to offer than Dinsdale, who has an attractive record of growing up in a small-town, rural-oriented environment and moving on to significant achievement in the family’s statewide banking business.
Another senatorial nomination candidate, former Navy officer Shane Osborn, it seems to me, can’t expect to be elected on the basis of his courageous performance in saving the lives—including his own—of all the crew aboard a badly-damaged U.S. Navy electronic surveillance aircraft.
Osborn Criticized by Some Naval Vets
The plane was damaged by a Chinese fighter as it which patrolled off the coast of China to record any electronic information which might be picked up that would be of interest to U.S. intelligence services. He landed the plane at a Chinese airbase. (Some Navy airmen said he should have ditched it at sea.)
Osborn also stresses the fact that he served a sort of part-time term as State Treasurer—part-time in that in these days of electronic recordkeeping and fiscal controls, the office of State Treasurer has become obsolete to the point that Osborn could take a part-time job with a crop insurance company at the same time drawing his salary as part-time State Treasurer.
Sasse Can ‘Whip Government Into Shape’?
The other candidate making a strong run for the office is Ben Sasse, a native Nebraskan who left the state and compiled a record of service in a variety of jobs in the federal government, then returned a few years ago to a very effective job as a head of a financially-struggling Midland University in Fremont.
Sasse has run a vigorous campaign pursing the Republican Senatorial nomination, but it seems to me he may have misjudged Nebraska’s taste for “Tea Party type” Republican conservatism.
It seems to me that Sasse does not help his credibility—or electability—when he makes statements which result in World-Herald headlines like these:
“Sasse says he can whip the government into shape,” followed by this subhead: “The GOP opponent of the federal health care law paints himself as a conservative who can solve crises.”
At Least He Is Self-Confident
Give Sasse credit at least for self-confidence if he sees himself as a freshman senator who can “whip the government into shape” and can “solve crises.”
Moving on to the candidate whom the successful Republican nominee must face in November:
Omaha lawyer David Domina is a very respectable, responsible cinch for the Democratic nomination. But there is simply no indication that Nebraskans are inclined to elect a Democrat to replace retiring Republican Senator Mike Johanns of Lincoln.
The ObamaCare mess alone, as I see it, is enough to deter any state this fall adding to the Democratic majority in the Senate.
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Turning to the other most-spotlighted contest on the May primary ballot, here again the impact of the next four weeks of campaigning, especially in the final week or so before the voting, will be decisive, I believe.
As of now, State Auditor Mike Foley—whose emotional intensity too often overcomes reasoned judgment, as I see it—would be the man to beat.
But State Attorney General Jon Bruning is gaining ground with a reasoned campaign in the face of a barrage of irresponsible attack ads whose financiers can’t be positively identified but whom Bruning regards as supporters of rival candidate Omahan Pete Ricketts, former head of TD Ameritrade, now president and director of Platte Institute for Economic Research.
Ricketts denies that he is behind the attack ads but refuses to criticize those who are responsible.
Candidate Sure ‘Pro Life” Position Is Essential?
A factor of unpredictable, but possibly significant, impact in the Republican gubernatorial primary is the Catholic Church’s fierce opposition to abortion. Candidate after candidate is stressing that he is “pro-life,” which is “politicalspeak” for indicating opposition to even legally-protected abortions.
Foley has the advantage of having established an ongoing reputation as an emotional hardline opponent of abortion while he served in the state Legislature, carrying that opposition to an extreme on at least one occasion where his support of one of his anti-abortion bills which wasn’t going anywhere legislatively brought consideration of a handful of other legislative bills.
‘Pro-Life’ Emphasis The Key for Ricketts?
A recent Ricketts ad was devoted almost entirely a statement of his absolute opposition to abortion in accord with the Catholic Church’s teachings and doctrine.
One possibility: Bruning’s response to the anonymous ads attacking him has been to blame them on Ricketts’ supporters, but he has gone beyond that with reasoned statement of his position on the issues.
It seems to me there is a strong chance that the Bruning strategy could make him a strong contender to beat both the emotional Foley and Ricketts when that crucial election-deciding minority of Republican voters make their decisions in the final days before election.
One of the surprises—to me, at least—of the gubernatorial campaign has been endorsement of Foley by Husker football legend Tom Osborne, former coach and athletic director.
Osborne Endorsement Might Have Been Better Phrased
In a Foley mailing, Osborne endorsed Foley’s candidacy with a statement which ended this way: “Mike is an honorable man who can’t be bought.”
I wonder if Coach Tom had a chance to re-write his endorsement, he wouldn’t want to leave out that last sentence. You might think there’s an implication there that among Foley’s opponents, Osborne is implying, there are less than honorable men who can be bought.
It would have been helpful if Tom’s endorsement of Foley had been accompanied by an explanation of why the Husker coaching legend chose to involve himself in a hotly-contested political campaign in his retirement years.
Strong Dem Candidate In Chuck Hassebrook
As in the case of the senatorial nomination contest, Nebraska Democrats have a very responsible candidate who is being nominated without having to go through a primary contest: Former University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook, led a distinguished record on the Board of Regents and was well known as the liberal leader of the Center for Rural Affairs.
There is, as I see it, a perhaps mistaken tendency for Republicans to write off Hassebrook as simply a liberal Democrat who wouldn’t have any real chance in the November election. If the Republicans spill too much blood and build too much intra-party animosity, and if Hassebrook can convince voters that his performance as governor would reflect the views and wishes of the majority of Nebraska voters, we could be seating a Democrat as governor of Nebraska come January.
A long shot? Yes. But if it happens, remember you read it here first.
If it doesn’t happen, forget I wrote it, even as a possibility.
(Next week, a look at Bryan Slone, a late entry in the Republican gubernatorial race, who has some strong supporters and impressive qualifications but is having difficulty trying to catch up with candidates who started earlier.)
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Buffett, World-Herald Are Becoming Amusing In
Fight For Cheap Housing Costs For Shareholders
I have found it fascinating to see how far Warren Buffett and the local newspaper of which he is the de facto owner, The Omaha World-Herald will go in trying to avoid the law of supply and demand in connection with housing costs during this year’s annual Berkshire Hathaway stockholders’ meeting extravaganza which attracts Berkshire shareholders by the thousands.
The latest example of what it seems to me to be a silly—strike that, make it amusing—effort to avoid the law of supply and demand is a suggestion that Omahans open their homes to Berkshire shareholders who face sharply above-normal rates for lodging at hotels and motels.
The cheap-housing effort, you must understand, is to save money for Berkshire Hathaway investors who are coming to Omaha primarily because they have benefited so much financially from investing with Buffett and because the annual meeting is accompanied by entertainment and attractive prices for products produced by companies in which Berkshire Hathaway owns a major share.
Omahans reaction to Warren’s and The World-Herald’s efforts to find inexpensive housing, for Berkshire Hathaway shareholders should not be interpreted as any lack of appreciation for what Warren continues doing for Omaha.
Omahans are pleased and proud that Buffett still calls Omaha his home and through donations of billions of dollars to his daughter Susie has, in effect, shared a good deal of his financial success with his fellow Omahans in the form of very generous donations throughout the community from daughter Susie’s Sherwood Foundation.
Supply And Demand And The Masters
When I consider Warren’s and the World-Herald’s efforts to escape the law of supply and demand and offer cheaper housing to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, I reflect on my experience last week in Augusta, Georgia where I rented a house for a week to play host to some friends and family members who were in Augusta to watch the annual Masters Golf Tournament.
The inescapable law of supply and demand was surely at work during Masters Week.
Some people were paying $800 to $1,000 to legitimate ticket broker firms for a single-day ticket for the Masters Golf Tournament.
I heard no complaints about alleged “gouging” (a word The World-Herald used in connection with Omaha housing prices during the Berkshire shareholders meeting) of Masters attendees who were willing to pay as much as $425 a night for lodging and $1,000 for a single day’s ticket to the Masters.
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Wrieth Family Goes To Dogs During Masters Week
For this week’s upbeat column-ender:
The picture below is photographic evidence of how absorbed my assistant, Jackie Wrieth, and her family (dogs obviously included) is each year in the Masters Tournament week proceedings at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
During her four happy days of participation as a spectator at the Masters Tournament last week, Jackie obviously had time to pick up some Masters-themed mementos, including a pink dog collar for the Wrieth family female, Sophie, and a green collar for her playmate, Tucker, too. (The two pretty much run the Wrieth household, although they count on Jackie and husband Don to pay the bills.)
Jackie and I wouldn’t want to fool you—she informs me that it took a good deal of efforts and unusable photographs to catch Sophie and Tucker in a pose indicating they might indeed be watching the Masters Tournament telecast. They were watching, but not for long.
In any case, Jackie and I thought you would enjoy this demonstration of how far she will go demonstrating her enthusiasm for her attendance at the annual Masters tournament—and how far she will go in sharing her Masters enthusiasm with her canine pals Sophie and Tucker.
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