Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Politician of the Year

Last Year it was Dave Heineman, followed closely by Ernie Chambers.
This year? An even tougher decision. But in the end, the Leavenworth Street 2007 Politician of the Year is...

Jon Bruning

It was a difficult choice for 2007's PotY. There were few specific "successes" in the off political year. There was a great deal of posturing, speechifying and jumping in and out. But after we looked at it, we decided that, though he ended up clim
bing out of the candidate pool, no one made a bigger splash than Jon Bruning.

In March of 2007, Bruning stood in the UNO Alumni Center with a scowl on his face. Chuck Hagel had just made his infamous Non-Announcement-Announcement, and Bruning was somewhat floored. He had expected, like many others, that Hagel was running for President (why else would the national press make the trip?). This threw a monkey-wrench into the situation.

After an initial trial candidacy, Bruning listened to the many new Hagel-dislikers around the state and decided try to knock the king off his throne. And he put a real scare into the Hagel camp. How do we know? Well, almost immediately, Bruning's old Daily Nebraskan articles from his Democrat days hit the email in-boxes. And with every punch came a counter-punch. Easily the most quotable pol of 2007, Bruning seemed to constantly be tossing haymakers.

Bruning didn't just take on the establishment though. He was a formidable candidate, raising nearly a million bucks in a contested primary against a powerful incumbent.

But then came Hagel's final decision, and a quandary for Bruning. The word from the state and national GOP was, "The king is dead. Long live the king!" And before Bruning could turn around, Mike Johanns was up on the throne, yet no one was screaming for his head.

So after some initial bluster, Bruning decided to cool his heels and watch the Johanns coronation from the sidelines. He quickly became a statesman, willing to do the best for the party.

Bruning is 2007's Leavenworth Street PotY because of the shockwave he made across the Nebraska political establishment. That's not to say he did everything right. His firebrand candidacy, taking on the incumbent, may have even harmed his career (and the party) in the long term. But in 2007, no one made more hay than Jon Bruning. We'll miss him in 2008.

Can Bruning rest quietly until 2010? 2012? We have a feeling we'll hear from him.
And we look forward to it.

Chuck Hagel

If Bruning was #1, then Chuck Hagel has to be #1A. Hagel put himself on the national map early in 2007 by being the most vocal Republican against the war, and a thorn in the side of the Bush administration. A darling of the Sunday morning talk shows, Hagel began 2007 with discussions in the National Journal and GQ about a possible independent Presidential candidacy. Hagel scoffed at the notion. "Ludicrous", he said. So everyone waited with baited breath at his March presser at UNO.

After the collective "WTF?", many figured that Hagel was either done for, or possibly in trouble, should he run for re-election. But then came the strange footsy game with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Hagel kept his name in the news. Even after finally deciding to retire from the Senate, Hagel's name has constantly been in the Presidential discussion.

As the Democrat's favorite Republican (on the war and immigration, anyway) and the presumed running mate for a Bloomberg independent run, Hagel has defied the GOP powers-that-be, and has gone his own way (or at least Bloomberg's way). After the January 7, 2008 meeting in Norman, we may have an even better idea what the "independents" are up to. If Hagel is the #1A in 2007, look for him to be a contender for #1 in 2008.

Mike Johanns

Again, Johanns has to be no lower than #1B. When first considering the 2007 PotY, we figured it was Johanns in a lock. He showed up and was immediately crowned the head of the Nebraska GOP. But then we got to thinking that, wait a minute, he didn't really do anything (this year). And while we give him the credit (and thus this still-high position), he was really only on the Nebraska political scene for about two months. His major accomplishment was pushing Bruning, Daub and Raimondo out of the primary.

Kudos, but we're waiting for more in 2008.

Comeback of the Year
Tom Osborne

This one comes from the nomination of a Leavenworth Street commenter. Remember Congressman Tom Osborne? The quietly statesmanlike, populist man of the Third District? Well, the Congressman didn't cotton just right to the GOP voters who decided to keep Dave Heineman in the McMansion in 2006. Then in 2007 T.O. even took a swipe, on Jon Bruning's behalf, at Mike Johanns for quitting the Ag Department. And no one was really comfortable with politician T.O.

But when the real heart of Nebraska was mortally wounded, who swooped in to save the day?
Football Coach Tom Osborne.
Athletic Director Tom Osborne.
Roving Assistant Coach Tom Osborne.
Head Coach recruiter Tom Osborne.
Permanent Athletic Director Tom Osborne.

And then we all felt good again. Safe. Comforted. T.O. is in charge.
And his "office" is only about five million times nicer than Dave Heineman's.
Isn't living well the best revenge?

Dishonorable Mention
Nebraska Democrats

After all the chest beating from 2006's Year of the Democrat, the Nebraska Democrat party laid a giant egg in 2007.
No candidates for any major 2008 race.
Dissension in the party.
And their top guy for next year? A Republican.
Better luck next year.

And 2008...

Who will finally step up for the Dems? Will Kleeb keep his name in the news? Will Raimondo give Johanns a real race? Will Fahey do the right thing with the CWS? Or will Daub grab the wheel once again? And who else's name will hit the lights?

You know it's only going to get better in 2008.
See you next year!


bobby fidelis said...

Good run down on the politicians of the year. Who would you throw in as statesman of the year Sweeper? Bruning also, or even Nelson? Seriously.
Strapping on the football helmet and pads for that one, T.O. lent me some.

BTOsborn said...

At least the photo of the Democrat was the best looking one of the bunch. ;-)

Hosh said...

As a NE Democrat...I completely agree with your Democratic assessment. We are embarrassing. After all that "we're coming attention to us..." we look like a bunch of bumbling idiots..I'm getting closer and closer to saying "they" instead of "we."

Anonymous said...

Another year of sharp witted pundits giving good blog.

Anonymous said...

Thompson S. Hunter in Iowa (temporarily)....

Happy New Year, Leavie.....can't wait to see a post about all the $ raised ending 12/31/07. Let's see how those Dems are doing...might have to look deep into the annals of a state legislature campaign for them to paint themselves as 'here to fight and stay' this time. If Tom White ain't over $50,000 they are done. Done like the Cold War, which as taught by Sen. Bill Avery was not won by Reagan.

Anonymous said...

Why miss Jon Bruning because he harmed his career and his party?

Street Sweeper said...

Anony @ 1:01,

Never said he DID harm his career or party, just said he MAY have. Only time will tell on both.

As far as why we'll miss him in the 2008 elections? The guy is a quote machine! He makes nearly everything interesting. That's what we'll miss...

Anonymous said...

What is there to get excited about as a Dem. in Nebraska?

gretchen said...

Anony 1:01- please explain how Bruning hurt his party or career? I would argue that both are in significantly better shape then they were 6 months ago...

Frank said...

We certainly miss the great leadership of the NE Dem Group by former chair Matt C. in finding jim dandy candidates.

Recall his brilliance of two years ago --- A governor candidate that his dear old dad paid off his creditors 50 cents on the dollar. An auditor candidate who was a Dem for 10 minutes before the election and a Candidate for Congress who had been a residence for about 10 minutes before running.

As a life long Democrat ---- please let us break the insanity cycle. Brian T. --- HELPPPPP!!!

BTOsborn said...


I'm doing what I can. I'd be taken more seriously if my pockets were full of cash, but, as a poor working class stiff my voice is more of an annoyance to the hierarchy. Funny, I always thought that the Democratic Party was the place for people like me. Turns out they are so like the Republicans in so many ways.

ptg said...

Hagel as 1A? Sounds like a selective service classification to me. I sure hope Chuck isn't feeling a draft these days.