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Bush in Nebraska

Peter Slevin in the Post provides an on-the-ground look at Bush's trip to Nebraska, home of Ben Nelson, the sole Democratic Senator not on the record opposing Bush's privatization scheme.

Nelson's spokesperson, David DiMartino, explains that Nelson is "refusing to take any position until the president offered a plan."

"Until you have an entire plan, you have people debating empty boxes," said Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska... [NYT]
Nelson's hesitance is actually a potential strategic advantage to the Democrats. First, having a single holdout on the Democratic side highlights the uniformity of Democratic opinion and emphasizes the weaknesses of Bush's efforts to reach across the aisle. Second, Nelson's fence-sitting highlights the imaginary details of Bush's plan, where unanswered questions abound. He's going to spend the next 8 weeks carrying around a fancy platter of lacquered turkey, hoping to make the American people salivate. Nelson's holdout ensures that people realize they have't tasted anything yet.

Slevin also highlights the extraordinary cohesion of the liberal coalition fighting to prevent privatization. Campaign for America's future sent organizers to the field, who worked with labor, the Alliance for Reitred Americans, the Fair Taxes Coalition, and Moveon to assemble an effective counter-demonstration. It's a tribute to our side's unity.

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star also had a good write up.
Bush's appearance in Omaha had many of the trappings of last year's presidential campaign. As usual, the backdrop was festooned with slogans, positioned so that the TV cameras would catch them as they focused on Bush. On Friday, facsimiles of giant Social Security cards with the words “Strengthening Social Security for the 21st century” were used.

And as usual, most of those inside the arena were supporters, although in a departure from his re-election events, the White House gave some tickets to a Democrat — Nelson — to distribute.
David Stout's NYT coverage emphasizes Ben Nelson's precarious political position ("Senator Nelson won by only 51 to 49 percent in 2000...").


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