Skip to comments.Nelson not sure how cold Johanns is to U.S. Senate bid
Posted on 05/28/2003 6:58:41 AM PDT by JohnnyZ
LINCOLN -- The day after Republican Gov. Mike Johanns said he wasn't exactly keen on making a Senate bid in 2006, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson wasn't biting.
"I still think he's running," Nelson said Tuesday in Lincoln. "He didn't say he wasn't."
Johanns said Monday that he wished a strong GOP candidate would step forward to challenge Nelson.
"The ideal situation for me would be if a Chuck Hagel-type person ... said 'I want to run for the United States Senate,' " Johanns said. "It would take a tremendous burden away from me."
"It seems likes he's pulled back," Nelson said. "But he hasn't pulled out."
Nelson, who hasn't said he will seek re-election, then sent a barb toward Johanns.
"He's spent more time talking about '06 than I have," Nelson said. "I'm focused on '03 -- I'd think he'd be focused on '03 as well."
Johanns made the comments at a news conference announcing his vetoes of a budget containing tax increases that was proposed by state lawmakers.
Johanns had proposed far deeper cuts and only an increase in the cigarette tax to balance the state's books.
Some observers have suggested that Johanns knew that lawmakers -- who are expected to override his vetoes -- would go for less severe cuts than he proposed.
That, in theory, would allow Johanns to run for the Senate and say that he did not raise taxes.
"I don't think what he did can be understood in any other way," said Democratic State Chairman Steve Achelpohl. "He completely abdicated his responsibility."
David Kramer, chairman of the state GOP, said he was not worried about finding a candidate.
"We're still two years away from being one year away from the primary," Kramer said. "We've got plenty of time to worry about that."
He was not ready to rule out Johanns, however.
"I think his focus is on being governor," Kramer said.
Nelson, the only Democrat in Nebraska's congressional contingent, served two terms as governor just before Johanns was elected.
Johanns easily won a second term last November, but cannot run for governor again because of term limits.
Some political observers have said Johanns would be the logical candidate to challenge Nelson.
Johanns said the Senate race was the furthest thing from his mind, and his family would weigh heavily in his deciding whether to continue in politics.
Any of the state's constitutional officers or U.S. Representatives -- all Republicans -- or former Attorney General Don Stenberg would make strong Senate candidates, Johanns said.
Stenberg left office in January after not seeking a fourth term. He said it was too early to speculate on whether he might try another Senate bid.
Stenberg lost the GOP Senate nomination in 1996 to Hagel.
Stenberg won the Republican nomination for the Senate in 2000, but lost to Nelson in the general election by the closest margin since Nebraska began directly electing senators in 1916.
The prior article on this subject from the day before:
Nelson was courted by the GOP prior to the '00 contest to run against Kerrey, but opted to stick with the 'Rats.
Indeed, however, with Kerrey bowing out and giving Nelson his blessing to take his seat, Nelson went to campaign as a Democrat. Still, we should have won this seat. ABS - Anybody But Stenberg. Chuck Hagel pasted Nelson in the 1996 senate contest and Nelson was then a sitting governor. Any other Republican candidate would have won, but Stenberg relied too much on Bush's coattails to effectively counter Nelson's arguments that Nebraska would be better off with each party having a senator from Nebraska.
As for potential Republican candidates to take Nelson, the GOP is fortunate to have Governor Mike Johanns (R) as a potential nominee. His apporoval ratings remain high even though governors in other states have dismal ratings.
The second best candidate (or perhaps the best) would be Congressman Tom Osborne (R) -- the most beloved person in the state. Nevertheless, Osborne has shown little interest in seeking higher office -- let alone another term in the House -- and is inexperienced at campaigning.
Congressman Bereuter (R) and Lee Terry (R) are other possiblities with my pick going to Terry and his second district (the least Republican in the state) support in a general election. And, of course, there are other possibilities at Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Lt. Governor.
Just no Stenberg, please
Especially amusing given that even back then he was still a couple of years younger than Strom Thurmond. :-)
Wouldn't he just about be a shoo-in? I was at the Bush event in Omaha. When Osborne came in, the place went nuts. He's extremely popular.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.