Chuck Hagel Delenda Est!

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Patrick Ruffini, the very smart GOP web guru who's worked for George W. Bush, the RNC, and Rudy Giuliani, gives an unsurprising plug to Nebraska AG Jon Bruning and his primary campaign against Chuck Hagel. And then he makes this observation:

Bruning, the state's popular Attorney General, would have a better chance in the fall than Hagel, who has forever alienated the party's base.

Forever alienated? Let's get to that later. Ruffini asserts that Hagel could lose the general election because the Republican base wouldn't turn out for him and "ask Chafee and DeWine whether you can win without the base once Democrats smell blood." For evidence he links this poll of Nebraska voters:

51 percent of Nebraskans believe Bush's surge of additional troops into Iraq is the wrong approach compared to a phased withdrawal of U.S. soldiers; 54 percent of Republicans side with the president while 35 percent say it's time to begin pulling out.

So a majority of Nebraska voters oppose the Iraq surge, which Bruning supports and Hagel opposes. It certainly seems, from that evidence, like Hagel would be the stronger candidate in November 2008 while Bruning would be vulnerable to a Democrat who wants out of Iraq. Ruffini argues that Bruning's approval numbers are higher (61 percent to Hagel's 51 percent) and the base would be more motivated for Bruning. But if the GOP candidate's #1 issue in the Fall is "Iraq forever!" and the war is still massively unpopular, how does Bruning become the stronger candidate?

Back to that "forever alienated" thing. Ten, twenty years from now, what is the GOP base going to think of Bush and the Iraq War? One possibility: They will think Bush was a misunderstood martyr-genius and the Iraq War was a brilliant, world-changing plan that would have worked if liberals and paleoconservatives hadn't stabbed Bush in the back. That's the sentiment you already read on some pro-war blogs. It might actually become Republican dogma, in which case, yes, someone like Hagel will be as unacceptable to Republicans as someone like Orval Faubus is to Democrats. That's a pretty dark future for the GOP, though. And not one where it's the majority party.

By the way, a successful anti-Hagel campaign has the potential to be far, far worse for Republicans than the Lamont-Lieberman situation was for Democrats. If Hagel is purged from the party he can't launch a Connecticut for Lieberman-style Potemkin party. What he could do is… run for president as an independent, something he has repeatedly said he's interested in doing. How does the GOP win in 2008 if they nominate a candidate not 100 percent suitable for the base (read: any of the frontrunners) and Hagel gets on the ballot to split the anti-Democrat vote? It doesn't. It loses the election.

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  1. They don’t want to remind people that you can be Republican and anti-war at the same time.

    It would ruin the whole Republicans=babykillers meme they’ve spent years cultivating.

  2. joe,

    You actually sound like you wouldn’t be happy to see the Republican party to go down in flames. Is that really you?

  3. They will think Bush was a misunderstood martyr-genius and the Iraq War was a brilliant, world-changing plan that would have worked if liberals and paleoconservatives hadn’t stabbed Bush in the back. That’s the sentiment you already read on some pro-war blogs. It might actually become Republican dogma

    That’s …terrifying.

  4. This is why I visit Reason — impassioned defenses of Chuck Hagel!

  5. So, who has more of a chance of success unseating an America-hating, traitorous Republican member of Congress: Dondero, Bruning, or Mickey Mouse?

  6. It is amazing how one person can create one article from one word.

    Instead of focusing on the word forever, maybe a more complete analysis of “alienated the party’s base” would have been preferable.

    Also, btw, we noticed that David Weigel focuses his commentary on the war and not at all on illegal immigration.

    Bruning4Senate

  7. Chuck Hagel delendus est!

  8. Re: “forever.” In the long run we are all dead. I highly doubt people will think much of Chuck Hagel twenty years from now.

    If Bruning has a favorable rating that’s 10 points higher than Hagel, I can only imagine what it is among Republicans. By now, Nebraska’s relatively few Democrats probably think of Bruning as a partisan conservative, while Hagel enjoys some Democrat support for his heterodox views on the Iraq war. Not only that, but Bruning already leads Hagel by 9 points in the primary. That’s extraordinary, this early in the game.

    Also, Chuck Hagel as an anti-Democrat who drains votes from the GOP nominee? Huh? The only Republican who is more despised amongst Republicans is Ron Paul (a bitter pill to swallow, I’m sure).

  9. crimethink,

    I actually just cut and pasted that comment from someone in the Ron Paul thread, explaining why the “Democratic media” – and only the Democratic media – wants to make the public think that being Republican means being pro-war.

    It looks like quite a few Republicans want the public to think that, too.

  10. Bruning already leads Hagel by 9 points in the primary.

    Linky please?

    As far as favorable ratings go, just because you think your local dog catcher does a great job catching dogs, and your senator isn’t such a great senator, doesn’t mean you want your dog catcher in the Senate.

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