Omaha attorney Dave Begley covered the appearances of presidential candidates in Iowa and Nebraska for us over the past two years. Last week he reported here on the appearance of Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders in Omaha. Today he follows up with the counterprogramming of Mayor Jean Stothert, reported here by the Omaha World-Herald:
Scott Walker was brought to Omaha in response to the visit of Bernie Sanders last week. Governor Walker’s message was the traditional Republican one brought to a local level: economic growth, lower taxes and public safety. Governor Walker’s best line was that the Democrat candidate for mayor of Omaha had to be “a liberal’s liberal to get Bernie Sanders here.” Nice use of guilt by association. The man from Madison also noted that Heath Mello flip-flopped on abortion. Apparently a Democrat can no longer be pro-life.
When Mayor Jean Stothert spoke she raised the issue that her opponent is falsely trying to portray Omaha as a sanctuary city. That was the only national issue she raised.
Watching Scott Walker speak I recalled the early days of the campaign when he was near the top in national polls. I then thought of all of Donald Trump’s primary opponents. I think it is fair to say that none of them except Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Rick Perry are really Trump boosters. Put another way, has Donald Trump remade the Republican party as his own? How many in the GOP Congress will back him in a tough spot? Has the GOP fully bought into his America First and populist message? I think the jury is still somewhat out on this and Trump’s results over the next four years will be the deciding factor. It is also fair to say that Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has kept his distance from President Trump, as he was an early and is now a persistent critic.
The other item to note is that none of the GOP speakers at the rally adopted any of candidate Trump’s rhetorical style. In retrospect, “Low energy Jeb” and “Crooked Hillary” were very effective for the Trump campaign. Trump is sui generis, but some form of his speaking style could work for GOP candidates as it conveys a toughness and bluntness that the Republican party has lacked.
Mayor Stothert, perhaps unwittingly, might prevail with the votes of Trump Democrats. The Omaha firefighters’ union is strongly opposed to her but the police union is neutral. The fact that she has hired new policemen probably has something do with that.
There were more people outside protesting than there were inside at the rally. The crowd at the Democrat rally was 100 times bigger than the crowd at the GOP rally. Enthusiasm clearly favors the Democrat candidate and we saw what enthusiasm did for candidate Trump. The average age at the Stothert rally was twice that of the Sanders rally. The GOP needs to fix its apparent demographic problem.
If Jean Stothert loses this race the headline in the New York Times will be “Trump opponent wins in Omaha.” In order to avoid that problem I could see President Trump tweeting out support for Mayor Stothert or doing a robocall for her even though she wrote-in John McCain in last year’s election. That would be a classic win-win from the man who wrote The Art of the Deal. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is on good terms with the President and I can see him exercising his influence here. This race will come down to turnout and right now I am not optimistic.