Friday, August 11, 2006

Lieberman Defeat Could Hurt Nelson in Nebraska

Longtime U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman was defeated in a reelection bid in the recent Connecticut Democratic primary. I think it could hurt Ben Nelson in his reelection effort in Nebraska.



Disclosure: Senator Nelson endorsed me when I ran for the Nebraska Legislature in 2000, and he was featured last year in the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research newsletter. I am NCER's executive director.

One of the core issues in the Nebraska Senate race between Nelson and Pete Ricketts is Nelson versus the national Democratic Party. (Please, no more about either man's taxes.)

I think one of Ricketts' strongest arguments is throwing out names such as Reid, Schumer, Clinton, and Kennedy. The Nelson response is that he is an independent thinker, a conservative Nebraska Democrat, a senator President Bush has lauded as someone he can do business with.

All true. But if the Democrats win the Senate, does Nelson disappear from the conversation in D.C.?

He's in the middle of things now because he offers Democratic support to the Republicans in control of making policy. If the Democrats win the Senate, the people setting the agenda are going to be the aforementioned liberals. They won't need, or perhaps even want, Nelson in the picture.

The current Senate Democratic leadership is rallying behind the anti-war candidate who beat Lieberman. They seem to believe the people are moving in that direction.

If the Democrats win the presidency in 2008, Nelson could become even less of a factor, Nebraska's Zell Miller -- well-respected at home and probably throughout most of the country, but scorned by the D.C. Democratic leadership.

Nebraskans historically have not warmed up to "vote for the party" appeals. They vote for individual candidates. However, if Nelson holds his Senate seat, that improves the chance of the Democrats winning the Senate. If the national Democratic leadership takes Lieberman's defeat as a cue to move more aggressively to the left, I wonder if that will creep into the calculations of Nebraska voters.

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