Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dueling DREAMs in the Senate race

This site, as he name says, is about politics.

So with that in mind, let’s look at an issue – at this point, the ONLY issue – in the nascent Senate campaign between Jon Bruning and Mike Johanns. But let’s look at the issue from the political, campaigning point of view.

Jordan McGrain, manager of the Bruning for Senate campaign, is making his best efforts to hammer Johanns on the immigration issue. The Bruning camp wants to tie Johanns to his support of last year’s failed immigration bill, which he campaigned for while President Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture. That bill contained the much debated “path to citizenship” which many claimed was “Amnesty!” for illegal aliens. As a member of Bush’s cabinet, Johanns argued for comprehensive immigration reform, but argued that the “path to citizenship” was not amnesty.

The recently rejected DREAM Act had similar provisions, but Chris Peterson, campaign manager of the Johanns for Senate campaign, said specifically that Johanns opposes the DREAM act and was “pleased with its defeat”.

The Bruning camp has countered that Johanns past statements as Ag Sec showed him “in favor of amnesty before he was against it,” using the line that Bush battered John Kerrey with in 2004.

Now here’s an interesting note: at this point no one in the Nebraska Main Stream Media has picked up on this discussion. Is this because 1) they accept Johanns’s statements for now; 2) they’re biased towards Johanns; or 3) they’re just waiting for the Bruning ads on the subject to discuss it? Hmm.

In any case, currently, Bruning and Johanns have similar, if not identical positions going forward on immigration. Johanns spelled his out as:

1) border security and that means stopping illegal entry across the southern and northern border;
2) no amnesty whatsoever;
3) verifiable workplace enforcement and sanctions for employers who fail to follow the law;
4) those who have come here illegally must go back to their home country and start the immigration process over without preferential treatment; and,
5) if you've come here illegally and have committed a serious crime, you lose your chance at becoming a citizen.

When asked, McGrain said the highlights of the Bruning immigration plan are:

Opposing amnesty and public benefits like in-state tuition…extending the fence and increasing manpower and technology, and empowering state and local officials to enforce existing laws and expeditiously detaining and deporting dangerous aliens and gang members. (He also encourages law enforcement to participate in) the 287(g) program, which would give local law enforcement access to DHS databases and funds for training.

Now we list these, not so much to argue about Johann’s position, but to show that the positions of the candidates are nearly identical. So the Bruning camp’s argument boils down to, “he argued for something different while he was Ag Sec – can we trust him in the future?”

And we’re not really sure where this gets the Bruning camp.

Everyone is looking back at the Governor’s campaign where the in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants became one of the top two issues. But the difference there was that there was a real difference. Tom Osborne was for it, while Dave Heineman was against it. If TO had said, “I was for it while in Congress, but I’m against it now,” it would have been a much different, watered-down issue. And probably not a factor at all.

People mainly want to know what a candidate is going to do in the future. Voters most likely understand that Johanns was pushing his boss’s position, and are unlikely to hold it against him. But while people seem to have accepted Johann’s position on immigration for now, will things change after they’ve been subjected to a barrage of Bruning ads claiming Johanns favors “Amnesty!”? At that point, will Johanns listing his going-forward positions satisfy those who vote based on this volatile issue?

Of course, keep in mind that such ads won’t be in a vacuum, and you can bet that if (and when) Bruning presses this, the Johanns camp will pull out all of Bruning’s Daily Nebraskan columns, and it will simply turn into a pissing match of “yeah, well he said this.”

So where does that put Bruning? We don’t know, but at this time, he seems to be betting his campaign on that issue. Is that one issue enough to beat the Johanns Juggernaut ©. Are there any other issues out there that can separate these candidates? Are there issues where they believe, going forward, they’ll do things differently? (Definitely in style, but is that enough?)

So what say you, Leavenworth Street readers? Putting aside whether the DREAM Act is good or bad, is the Bruning campaign’s strategy worthwhile? Does it have a chance to get traction? Will it pull over GOP voters?

We can guarantee that both campaigns want to know…

20 comments:

Street Sweeper said...

Folks,
When making comments, please try to

1) Give yourself a moniker, so we don't have a bunch from "Anonymous".

2) Don't just make a "My candidate rules!" comment. Give an argument for whatever your position is.

Thanks
SS

George Darlington said...

Bruning wrote liberal opinion pieces in the Daily Nebraskan, Johanns was a registered Democrat until 1988. Am I the only one that sees the disconnect here?

BTW, I hear the NYD's are giving Bruning a "Fallen Star" award. Might be a good blurb, SS.

Street Sweeper said...

George,
I personally believe that all of it is a wash, and voters want to know what you're going to do next. But we'll ahve to wait to see about that.

Yeah, I saw the Dem's little gimmick. That's lots easier than registering voters I suppose.

EN said...

I am Ok with Jon Bruning writing liberal slanted articles at the DN. The DN is a laboratory for people to experiment and grow as a individuals. Of course, the growing pains sometimes make the DN appear border-line immature, I am glad to see that Bruning has grown up as a person and has had a change of heart.

I am not sure whether what he believes the solution for the problem with illegal immigration is genuine. I have the feeling that he would ameliorate his stand on the matter if the wind started to blow in the other direction. I hope he is genuine though, but we shall see.

kenny bana said...

So, if I have this right, writing about your malleable political philosophy in a student newspaper in 1993 and advocating for major federal policy as a member of the President's cabinet in 2007 are more or less equal according to Johanns?

Yeah, that plays.

moniker said...

I don't see how Johanns can be faulted here. As a member of an administration, it is your duty to advocate publicly the PRESIDENT'S policies - not your own. No one in their right mind believes cabinet members can publicly oppose the President - their boss. The time to disagree is behind closed doors within the administration, and if your side loses, you suck it up and publicly support the President's decision.

Look at how many times John Bolton had to hold his tongue and espouse views he didn't agree with at the UN, or VP Cheney on gay issues. When reporters tried to coax them to publicly disagree with their boss, they always said they served the President and it was their duty to follow his agenda.

As far as Bruning, the fact *that* he wrote for the DN, regardless of content, should be held against him. :-P

Anonymous said...

Let the two get into a pissing match! Flynn will come right up the middle just like Fortenberry and like Johanns did in '98

One Out In The Third said...

What they promise and what they actually do are often soon revised and forgotten.

The whole issue may become a moot point before a winner is sworn in anyway. Seems the upcoming Farm Bill has a provision that basically provides amnesty to illegal farm workers. We all know where E. Benjamin Nelson (the E. stands for Earmark) stands. He back-doored his constituents with his vote for cloture on the most recent Dream Act push by Dingy Hairy and friends...then he puts a big press release on his web page saying he is against it just before the vote. E. Ben sure sent a message to me that he was talking out of both sides of his mouth. We all know E. Ben will be wanting to push the Farm Bill through as quickly as possible. I wonder if he has the "pair" necessary to remove the language that provides amnesty from the bill? I bet not.

To be honest...in the set of comments you posted...it appears that Johanns may be a little tougher on illegals...if he is being truthful. Bruning's mouthpiece seemed to provide a bit more "mumbo jumbo evasiveness" in what I read.

P.S. Kyle...as one of the "usual suspects"...I give you the authority to cut and paste from this post for your website.

Joe said...

Johanns should go up first with a bunch of ads on his current (and presumably future) immigration position before Bruning has a chance to define him. That way when Bruning attacks, he can do the Clinton thing and say it's old news and my position is what it has been since I began this campaign.

Big Red Bruning Fan said...

I think Jordan McGrain is smarter than he looks in the mug shot. This is the tip of the iceberg.

On immigration, maybe Johanns gets away with his "my boss made me do it" argument on last year's amnesty bill, but what about his pro-illegal immigration stances as Governor? Who will he blame for that?

Anyone catch in the coverage of the new Ag secretary (replacing the guy who quit) that Adrian Smith is "sponsoring legislation to stop the FSA closures"? Hmmm. the 3rd District Rep. thinks that decision foolish enough to be undone. Who made that decision again?

Anyone catch the news today in the South where the states are fighting over water? Hmmm. Seems to me a former governor - the one who quit - sold NE water rights away to Kansas. The drought isn't over yet.

And if Bruning is worth anything, there's probably plenty more coming. Mike Johanns has the biggest glass jaw in NE politics.

and there is a difference between writing liberal columns when you are 20 years old in College and promoting amnesty for illegal immigrants in your sixties, after holding multiple part time elected positions for both parties. I think most would acknowledge that.

P.S. - OOITT - You have bashed earmark Bennie a few times now. Have you not seen Johanns' strong embrace of earmarks in his campaign? Adrian Smith does earmarks too. Let's bash equally, what do you say?

Heretic said...

Has anyone thought of looking into how much the NEGOP has helped the Johannes campaign over Brunings? I'm sure that if you look at the connections between the two's staff you might be able to pull something up. Also, didn't Johannes give the state party a fairly large paycheck to help with their office? If I was Bruning I would probably want this looked into.

James Drake said...

Savvy pundits will defend Johanns' sticking with the President on immigration. Winston Churchill did this on other issues any number of times as a cabinet member before he was prime minister, and left us good arguments for doing so.

In my opinion the pundits would swing those in the middle should it come to that.

OmaSteak said...

Of the two, Johanns is the more likely to pull the Nelson trick of saying one thing while campaigning and voting another way if elected. Bruning doesn't get off as 100% credible on the issue either. Doesn't anyone remember Jon hiring a female hispanic immigrant rights activist as assistant AG to focus on "service to the hispanic community"? The AG's office has also spent time and money on informing/protecting spanish speaking only workers...read illegals...rights in the meat packing plants. I'm sure both campaigns are taking donations from industry groups who have a vested interest in keeping the flow of illegals coming.

Anonymous said...

Heretic, you're a nit-wit.

What's to look into? Johanns paid for that building...it said so in the Journal Star.

The last time I checked it's not illegal to buy and donate private property.

Anonymous said...

Gene Frenkel says:

Heretic, you must be one of those conspiracy theorists who believes in black helicopters and the Illuminati.

Anonymous said...

My candidate rules!

Old DN reader said...

I hope Jon Bruning impressed lots of hippie chicks with those liberal rants he wrote at age 24, 'cause he's sure paying the piper now.

kosmo said...

Wasn't Yohanns a Dem while he was on the County Board? Which would make the Bruning Dem/Liberal argument a wash.

Ness said...

I agree with Moni...The Secretary, while serving for the President had to support his boss, and be loyal. This shouldn't be held against him - so long as the Boss' orders were not ciminal. Being loyal, within the confines of the law, should be an advantage instead of being attacked on it.

The Attorney General, it is my humble opinion, really wants to be Someone Someday - Senator Bruning, Governor Bruning - etc, but I am still not convinced that protecting us from illegal immigrants is motivating him at this point.

Jon Rehm said...

Here's my view on the chances of Jon Bruning:

I worked as a junior staffer for Bill Hoppner in 1998 and I still identify more with his view of the Nebraska Democratic party than the Kerrey/Nelson view. That said, Johanns did a complete 180 on a spending lid initiative that year. During the GOP primary, he supported the lid to kow-tow to the anti-tax/big business wing of the GOP wing of the party.

Problem was that the initiative was very unpopular with Main Street rural Republicans. The iniative (sp?) ended up failing 2 to 1. Our strategy was simple, tie whoever the GOP nominee was to that iniative.

Problem was that Johanns wouldn't let us. He flipped in July and basiscally took the issue away from us. All we had left was to 1) say he flip-flopped and 2) tie him through his donors to the lid. It didn't work. I think the main reason was because we didn't have the money to drive home our message.

I think Johanns has 1) flipped on immigration but that 2) it's so early in the game that no one except for the blogosphere, political insiders and Don Walton will care. Plus allegations of flip-flopping are a dime-a-dozen. Voters don't care. True, Bruning had more money than we did, but all Johanns has to do is pull out those old columns from the DN to counter-act any allegation of flip-flopping. Plus, like many have pointed out, he can always say he was being a loyal cabinet member.

Bruning ought to keep his powder dry for Nelson's seat in 2012 or the open gubernatorial seat in 2014.