After whiffing on attempts to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, the Democrats now have a competitive primary that will split the Party in two all in a losing effort. Upon failing to recruit Kerrey or Fahey, Sen. Chuck Schumer looked to Republican Tony Raimondo. After some convincing, Raimondo changed his Party registration and threw his hat into the ring. The left wing blogosphere went nuts. Now they have their own candidate: Scott Kleeb.
Democrats will argue that Kleeb overperformed for a Democrat in 2006 when he challenged Adrian Smith, but “overperformance” was still a ten point defeat. He also wasn’t running state-wide against a wildly popular former Governor whose candidacy drove several better known and more popular figures out of the race. Mike Johanns fits his state extremely well. He is a solid conservative who was the first Agriculture Secretary in a quarter of a century to put forward a farm bill, which he left in Congress’s hands before leaving his post.
Kleeb offers the Democrats a third tier pick-up opportunity at best. His fundraising base will be the internet, which, while extremely helpful, won’t be able to compete with the infrastructure behind a DSCC recruited candidate or, even moreso, a popular former Gov. and prohibitive favorite who will be the next Senator from Nebraska. Every dollar the Democrats spend in Nebraska will be a dollar not spent in a race they could win. What’s more, the divisions created by this race will inhibit the Democrats’ ability to work as a cohesive unit in other races.
It will be fun to watch over the next few months as Kleeb runs hard left during the primary and then, should he win, tries to convince voters that he didn’t say all those things he said during the primary campaign to get the nomination. The blogosphere will continue to attack Raimondo and the DSCC will make the case that Kleeb is too liberal for Nebraska. Either will result in a severely handicapped nominee. Pass the popcorn!