I was among those Nebraskans who were looking for a two-week and preferably a four-week respite from political campaign news—both the too often low-road variety that marked last week’s primary election and campaigning leading up to the November 4 general election.
The Sunday World-Herald demolished any hope of prompt relief from the political news bombardment:
–The World-Herald analyzed in great detail Ben Sasse’s successful campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator—a post-election analysis that, to a substantial degree, would not have been necessary if the news media had been more aggressive in covering Sasse’s successful campaign.
–The World-Herald also published—more appropriate but much too long—a collection of general-election campaign promises of the primary election winners.
Belated Disclosure Of Campaign Facts
In its news columns, The World-Herald, with help from Sasse and his campaign team, caught up with some of the truth, the facts of the Sasse campaign—including facts which would have been embarrassing to Sasse if they had it come to light during the campaign.
I’m not aware of any vigorous effort on the part of any member of the news media to ask some tough questions, during the campaign, which might have brought some of these facts to light in time for the voters to read about them before the election rather than reading them on election postmortem. For example:
Coverage of the Sasse campaign left the impression—obviously to Sasse’s significant advantage—that the ultraconservative organizations contributing big dollars for his campaign were volunteers, Tea Party types who felt ultraconservative Sasse was their kind of candidate. (The money, as is pretty well known, financed a lot of low-road attack ads on Sasse opponents.)
Strong Support From Fremont Residents
Two outside ultraconservative groups gave about $1,500,000 for the Sasse campaign.
But the truth—which came out in the Sunday World-Herald after members of the Sasse organization were willing to reveal the truth—was that Sasse and his campaign managers decided they must go outside Nebraska to gain the necessary funding beyond some $850,000 raised primarily in Fremont (where Sasse has done a good job of helping rescue Midland College, as president of that institution which was on the verge of bankruptcy).
The World-Herald story Sunday—five days after the primary voting—revealed for the first time some significant facts about the Sasse campaign, including campaign financing. The news story said:
“The next order of business to build name recognition. They had what can be regarded as both a national and a state plan. They went after the big endorsements, most notably the Club for Growth, and the Senate Conservatives Fund.”
The early results included outside financing of $500,000 in ads attacking Shane Osborn, Sasse’s main rival for much of the race.
The news story continued: “That allowed Sasse the opportunity to run only positive ads, maintaining the good-guy image with Nebraskans. (Emphasis added.)
“In all, the two groups spend about $1.5 million helping Sasse.
“With his national reputation rising, Sasse now turns his attention to building his grass-roots campaign in Nebraska.”
How Hard Did Media Try To Dig Out The Facts?
How much of this story could have been dug out and printed before the primary balloting is, of course, a major question.
Is there any evidence that the news media asked tough questions—any questions?—as Club For Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund gave Sasse their substantial financial assistance?
We now—after the election—know the answer: Sasse asked for the “attack” advertising help from ultraconservative non-Nebraskans. We also know the news media had not asked the obvious questions.
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Promises Of General-Election Positions
Range From Unimpressive To Downright Silly
Let’s turn now to some of the general promises voiced by winning candidates and published by The World-Herald Sunday.
As I see it, some of the post-primary statements were clearly unachievable if not downright silly.
In his statement, Sasse, for example, kept repeating over and over that he’s not a politician. Baloney.
He is a consummate politician—and not a completely candid one (I was tempted to use stronger language there) when the subject is the tactics he used to win the senatorial nomination.
Sasse’s November opponent, Democrat David Domina, Omaha attorney virtually unopposed in the Democratic senatorial primary, demonstrated how quickly a politician can change his colors.
Democrat Domina A Quick Change Performer?
A few days before the primary election, Domina suggested in a position paper that the Nebraska Republican and Democratic parties pursue common goals, forming a coalition that would, among other things, work to eliminate American corporations.
But in his post-primary comments dealing with his political goals, Domina made no mention of political parties joining forces in eliminating corporations but instead advocated policies which are more in line with typical liberal Democratic Party philosophy.
As to gubernatorial nominees’ statements printed on The World-Herald Opinion Page, I found nothing particularly impressive in the promises of either Democrat Chuck Hassebrook or Republican Pete Ricketts.
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Still Unanswered: Was Palin Paid Big Bucks?
Why Was Texas Senator’s Help So Welcome?
For this week, some concluding thoughts on what I consider to be one of the lowest-level political campaigns (I’m not just talking about the Ben Sasse campaign) that I can remember, and I’ve been writing about or commenting Nebraska political campaigns for some 60 years:
Why didn’t the news media pursue the question of whether Pete Ricketts, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, and Sasse gave $200,000 each to 2006 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to come into the state and make a campaign appearance with each of them?
And why didn’t the media put questions to Sasse and Ricketts about the intrusion of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas into their campaigns?
Endorsing both Sasse and Ricketts was a pretty obvious effort to build support for a possible Cruz effort to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
But Sasse and Ricketts should have been questioned—hard—about the propriety of welcoming such an intrusion. As I see it, Nebraska political primary campaigns are none of Ted Cruz’s business.
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