Of all of the incumbent Democratic senators seeking reelection in 2012, perhaps none is more endangered than Ben Nelson of Nebraska, now known for the infamous “Cornhusker Kickback,” a special deal for his state that was submitted during the health-care debate and ultimately withdrawn. Under the proposal, the federal government would cover the cost of Nebraska’s Medicare recipients indefinitely.
Last week, Nebraska state attorney general Jon Bruning, an announced challenger to Nelson, debuted a new web ad, “Even This Guy!” which pokes fun at Nelson by suggesting that even the state’s most gullible man could see the “Kickback” was a bad idea. Nelson adviser Justin Hart said segments of the web ad could be used in a 30-second version for television.
NRO’s Jim Geraghty had a chance to talk to Bruning about the ad and his bid against Nelson on Wednesday.
JON BRUNING: This ad highlights what we expect to be the preeminent issue of the race, and that’s Senator Nelson’s support for more big government. Obamacare has come to stand for the unwarranted expansion of government during the Obama administration. We’ve had a 25 percent growth in government since President Obama was sworn in, so they can’t blame that on the Bush administration. A huge part of that, of course, is the spending that’s associated with Obamacare, and we haven’t even seen all of that yet. This is a critical distinction between us: Senator Nelson voted for Obamacare; I would have voted against it. He continues to support it; I am leading the lawsuit against it.
I think we have come to a critical juncture in this country where we have to get the budget under control. We have to get the debt under control, we have to curtail our spending and our regulatory overreach. The federal government, especially under the Obama administration, just reaches further and further. This ad is designed to highlight that particular difference between Senator Nelson’s approach to governing and mine.NRO
: You see a lot of Democrats in Midwestern and Mountain states go heavily Republican at the presidential level, and they generally emphasize that they’re nothing like Nancy Pelosi and that they’re so moderate. Nelson is one of those guys who appears to have cultivated that image. How do you refute the notion that he’s different from the other liberal Democrats in Washington? Will you be able to get traction with that argument on a range of issues, or will it focus primarily on Obamacare?BRUNING
: We certainly need to pull back the curtain, because Senator Nelson has cultivated an image as a moderate in the Senate, and the reality is very different. He’s not moderate, he’s very liberal. His voting record reflects bigger government and more spending and a direction that Nebraskans are not interested in.
Nebraskans are very conservative. We have among the lowest unemployment rates in the country. We have a budget deficit that we’re going to handle without raising taxes. That’s kind of the Nebraska way — there’s just an abundance of common sense here. Senator Nelson somehow has been able to pull the wool over Nebraskans’ eyes and tried to appear as if he’s more conservative than he is.
I think Obamacare is the first time Nebraskans have really had their eyes opened to what his vision for America really is, and that’s nanny government solving everyone’s problems. Nebraskans don’t look at it that way. They believe in personal responsibility, and I ultimately think that this election is going to be about that choice, between those who believe in government solving everyone’s problems, like Senator Nelson, and those who believe in personal responsibility and free markets, like me.