This week Dr. Andersen (I do have an honorary doctoral degree or two) tries his hand at a sort of political postmortem of last week’s election results, with special focus on why the Democratic victory in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District stood out in such contrast to the national pattern of decisive Republican victories—decisive enough to give the GOP control of the Senate as well as an increased majority in the House.
Dr. Andersen picks up the scalpel. Let the postmortem begin.
The strong national GOP showing was significantly helped by President Obama’s increasing unpopularity, certainly including concern about his indication of readiness to try to do by executive decree what he can’t convince the Congress to do in advancing his liberal agenda.
As I see it, the victory of Democrat Brad Ashford over eight-term incumbent Republican Representative Lee Terry in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District was significantly helped by Terry and his campaign managers’ failure to stress that sending Ashford to the House would have the effect of being helpful to Ashford’s fellow Democrat, President Barack Obama.
Terry could have used that argument and buttressed it by pointing out that the national Democratic Party campaign organization, headquartered in Washington, had for whatever reasons targeted Nebraska’s Second Congressional District for particular attention, sending a team of “handlers” to staff Ashford’s campaign headquarters in Omaha and pouring a good deal of half-truth advertising for Ashford.
Terry and his campaign organization failed to take advantage of the resentment which a significant number of Second Congressional District voters might well have felt at the national Democratic Party campaign headquarters’ providing of campaign staff and campaign advertising dollars into Ashford’s campaign.
Among The Factors: Terry’s Personality
But there is a bottom line that can’t be overlooked: Terry’s bland personality (stronger language than “bland” was used by most Republicans with whom I discussed the Terry defeat) certainly was a major factor in his defeat, as I see it.
Another factor which played a role of some significance, in Terry’s defeat, not mentioned in the news media by any reports I heard or read:
Terry for years had enjoyed strong support from Sarpy County voters, including a large number of voters who had once worked at the large Bellevue-located headquarters of the nation’s strategic-weapons.
The Legislature, for some reason or another, decided that the First Congressional District, which includes Lincoln and southeast Nebraska except for part of Sarpy County, was entitled to a larger share of the Sarpy County population.
This had the effect of placing some of the hard-core conservative strategic-command retirees in the First Congressional District, reducing the Sarpy County support which a Republican Second Congressional District candidate could depend on.
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Ashford Adept At Switching Parties
So Lee Terry has lost the Second Congressional District seat. What do we know about the Democrat who succeeded Lee Terry (with the help of massive support from the national Democratic Party)?
For one thing, Brad Ashford is something of a political changeling, having been a Republican, an Independent (when he finished fourth in the Omaha mayoral primary two years ago) and now a Democrat.
For another thing, at 65 he is the second oldest Second Congressional District candidate to be elected as a freshman in the past 79 years. (I stopped counting at 79, running out of research stamina at that stage.)
The only older Second Congressional District freshman was also a Democrat, Omaha attorney Eugene O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan was 66 when elected in 1949.
O’Sullivan defeated Howard H. Buffett, father of the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett. Two years later, Howard Buffett defeated O’Sullivan.
Ashford Offers Ludicrous Proposal, Ludicrous Comment
During his campaign, and in his immediate reaction to his victory, Ashford made one ludicrous proposal and one incredibly naïve post-election comment.
The proposal: If elected he would form a bipartisan task force of 25 members who would work to build a cooperative bipartisan majority in the Congress.
The thought that if a freshman Congressman, at the very bottom of the 535-member Congress in terms of seniority and Congressional experience, could form such a “difference-making” task force—or any task force at all for that matter—is simply ludicrous. But shortly after his election, Ashford repeated his intention to make the effort.
Also ludicrous was a statement which Ashford made shortly after his apparent victory (some of the votes were still being counted). Reacting to his win, Ashford said, “We are about to bring this country back to where it should be.”
Ashford, it seems clear, was talking about his Second Congressional District victory in such sharp contrast to the Republican tide which was sweeping the rest of the country.
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“Energy,” Husker Letter Not Enough For Glenn
World-Herald endorsements fare well—except for one.
World-Herald endorsements of candidates and issues—for Brad Ashford and the school bond issue and Pete Ricketts were notable examples—fared very well—with one major exception.
In a lead editorial, the newspaper had endorsed Pawnee City businessman Steve Glenn for election to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.
The World-Herald said that Glenn showed a lot of energy in his career. I commented at the time that if energy were a qualification for electing someone to office, Ross Perot (who got some 20 million votes and didn’t carry a single state) would have been elected president.
Glenn had a long history of trying to influence the way the Nebraska football program is directed, citing his experience as a two-year Husker lineman.
Among his most recent targets has been Coach Bo Pelini, but Glenn failed in his campaign to unseat incumbent Regent Robert Schafer.
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I’m Just Trying To Stay Out Of The Hospital
For an upbeat note with which I like to end these weekly conversations with you, let’s try a bit of humor which both my hairstylist (they aren’t barbers anymore, you know) and I chuckled over:
My stylist, Tom Squires, a proud Vietnam War veteran, makes house calls on patrons who travel mostly with the aid of walkers, was finishing his house call.
I asked Tom how he was doing. Tom, very good-looking 60ish hair stylist and hairpiece maker (nobody calls them wigs or toupees anymore) replied:
“I’m just doing my best to keep out of trouble.” To which I replied:
“You’re ahead of me. I’m doing my best to keep out of the hospital!”
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