Leading the Charge against Nelson’s Folly
Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning hopes to unseat Sen. Ben Nelson.


NRO: Your career spans almost two decades, so you have a lot of moments to choose from, but was there a key event in your transition from a liberal to a conservative?

BRUNING: They were the same ones that are common to a lot of young people. You begin to pay your first taxes and you wonder who FICA is and why he’s taking such a big chunk out of your paycheck. You fall in love and get married. All of those things happened for me about the same time. And when you start to think about the future of your family and wonder where your tax dollars are going and how they’re being spent, that can make a conservative out of you pretty quickly.

I always hearken back to the old Churchill quote, “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no brain.” I think that applies to a lot of us. There are certainly a number people who are fortunate enough to have their parents help pay for college, and they don’t think too much about where the money comes from and where it goes. I was one of those young people. Once my parents kicked me from the nest . . . a little personal responsibility will cause you to look at things in a different light very quickly.

NRO: Last cycle, there were several incumbent Senate Democrats who looked really vulnerable, not just in the early polling but almost throughout the cycle, and they ended up surviving and in fact winning pretty handily. I’m thinking of Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer in particular. Right now, it looks like Nelson is polling badly, but are there lessons to be learned from last cycle? Is it possible Nelson is less vulnerable than he looks?

BRUNING: Incumbents are never to be taken lightly, and I will not take Senator Nelson lightly. But I would tell you that the demographics in Nevada and California are very different than they are here. Of the 33 Senate seats up for election in 2012, 23 are held by Democrats and ten by Republicans. Of the 23 Democrats, Ben Nelson is the one whose state had the lowest percentage vote for President Obama in the 2008 presidential election. So the demographics here are tough for Senator Nelson, tougher than for any of his colleagues.

Second, the Cornhusker Kickback has created an image for him that I don’t think he can shake. His unfavorables are over 50, his reelect score is far less than 50. Senator Nelson is very much a known quantity in this state, and Nebraskans have had enough of him. They’re tired of his duplicitous words and actions. The health-care vote was kind of the last straw.

Harry Reid did not have one seminal vote. They always knew Harry Reid was a liberal; he was the majority leader in the Senate. Nevadans weren’t surprised by what Sharron Angle said about him. Nebraskans now have been surprised by Senator Nelson’s vote, and I don’t think they’re going to forgive him for it.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO.


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