Nebraska: Johanns’ Path to Senate Looking Much Clearer

Posted November 21, 2007 at 3:10pm

And then there was Johanns.

State Attorney General Jon Bruning dropped out of the Senate Republican primary last week, leaving former Gov. Mike Johanns as the lone remaining credible GOP candidate running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R).

Bruning immediately endorsed Johanns.

Bruning entered the race in the spring, before Hagel announced his retirement and while Johanns still was serving in Washington, D.C., as Agriculture secretary. By the end of the third quarter he had more than $780,000 in the bank and was vowing to stay in the race even as reports began to surface that Johanns would enter the contest.

But Bruning’s plans changed just before Thanksgiving as it became evident that he faced an uphill climb against Johanns, who is the choice of establishment Republicans both in Nebraska and in Washington.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, Bruning said he decided to exit the race after he realized that the only way for him to defeat Johanns was to go negative.

“There was a path to victory here, but that path was not only expensive, it was negative, and it was divisive. It really was not a race I wanted to run,” Bruning said.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are still searching for a candidate, already having been rebuffed in their recruiting efforts by former Sen. Bob Kerrey and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey.

— David M. Drucker