Bruning To Challenge Senator Hagel In Republican Primary

With the GOP base firmly behind the war efforts in Iraq, but the rest of America not, it should come as no surprise that many Goppers are enjoying rather poor job security at the moment. This makes Senator Chuck Hagel, however, something of an oddity. Despite being a conservative that usually falls in line with his base, Hagel has been notably anti-war and highly critical of the Bush Administration’s ability to manage the Iraqi conflict.

As a result, political wisdom would dictate that Hagel is probably the right person at the right time to maintain his seat in Nebraska. As support for the war is almost certain to continue to diminish, an anti-war conservative is exactly what the GOP needs to stave off the Democratic onslaught that will ensue in congressional races this election cycle.

In other words, leave the guy alone fellas, he may help you cling to the roll call you guys already have.

But in a move that may be indicative of what I’ve taken to calling the hijacking of the Republican party, it seems that Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning will indeed challenge Hagel in a primary run for the senate.

“I’m a candidate without reservation,” Bruning said. “I can and I will beat Sen. Hagel in the primary next May. I’m running hard and I’m running to win. I will not defer to any other candidate who may join me in this race. I’ve chosen this path because conservative Nebraskans deserve a leader who will support and defend the principals of the Republican Party.”…

…In April, Bruning blasted Hagel’s criticism of Bush and the war in Iraq, saying Hagel had essentially left the Republican Party.

Because, essentially, the only Republican value that Hagel doesn’t support is apparently the making war value.

Of course all this pomp and circumstance may very well be moot when you take into consideration that Hagel may not even run for a third term as WaPo’s Chris Cillizza points out on The Fix. But this is still something to keep in mind not only for the political implications, but for the more idealogical implications of the Republican party.

Politically, Hagel can prove to be a monkey wrench in a multitude of ways next year. Should he run for a third term, he has a tough challenge in the shape of Bruning. Should Bruning win, with his prowar stance, gazing into my crystal ball for next year, he’s going to have a hard time picking up enough middle of the road voters who by then will most likely have a very tough time voting for someone who wants to keep us in Iraq if we are still there. However, should Hagel take the primary, he can easily stroke whatever Democratic challenger comes his way by maintaining his conservative street creds in everything else (a plus given the reddity of Nebraska), while at the same time flanking Democrats on the issue of Iraq.

But should he not run for senate, when it comes to the Nebraska senate seat… see above. Now, as has been rumored for some time now, Hagel may defer running for a third term in order to make an Independent bid for the White House, some speculate with New York City Mayor Bloomberg. This would undoubtedly be a very interesting development, and one I would personally like to see since Hagel Bloomberg has the potential to strip up to a third of the anti-war republican voters from the pro war base, fracturing the Republican demographic, and making it easier for Democrats to take the general election.

But there is an ideological undercurrent running here as well. As a Democrat, I’m pretty used to fractured party lines. We’ve got a pretty big tent, but that means we often times don’t play well among each other, and also put forth a dysfunctional and divided image.

Not so with the Republican party. As far as I can remember, which I admit is not very far back at all, the Goppers have been the very picture of unity, eschewing individual stances and such to provide an unbreakable party line that has garnered them a string of successes in the senate and in ballot boxes around the country.

But to what length is this a good thing? We are at a juncture now where the party is on the opposite side of Iraq than most Americans, as well as on the wrong side in the immigration debate (according to polls, I’m wearing my horse race hat so please let’s not get in a tizzy). Republican solidarity has given the party impressive political capital, but I think what we may be seeing here is that the downside could be an incredibly slow turning radius in regards to keeping with the values of the general public, not just the base. Granted, both parties will derive a certain amount of power from their more extreme bases, in recent years the driving force behind the GOP machine seems to have relied heavily on the Social Conservatives, Anti Tax Conservatives, and most notably the Neoconservatives.

At a time when pandering to these bases may not be the wisest course of action, we see Republicans still tossing the red meat to the lions like the old paradigms will still work. It’s possible that these resources of political power may still have some kick left in them, but I doubt it.

I definitely wouldn’t hinge my chances on 2008 upon it.

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