Bruning on Nelnet cabin: “Big deal”
Attorney General Jon Bruning is characterizing his decision to buy a $675,000 lake cabin with two Nelnet officials as no big deal — but a new poll indicates otherwise.
In a recent interview with KHAS-TV of Hastings, Bruning accused U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson of trying to get voters to focus on the fact that “my wife and I and two other couples own a lake house. Big deal, you know, it’s where I teach my kids to water ski, right. I mean it’s not unlike a lot of families in Nebraska. I love Nebraska. I’ve got a lake house in Nebraska. So what?”
Bruning also told the TV station all the negative publicity that has swirled around him in recent months has not hurt his polling numbers, that he’s still leading in “the most recent voters’ poll.” He’s probably referring to Public Policy Polling’s poll showing Bruning is still the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, but his support has slipped 10 percentage points since their last poll in January.
Bruning led the pack with 37 percent, followed by State Treasurer Don Stenberg with 16 percent, state Sen. Deb Fischer with 14 percent, and Pat Flynn with 6 percent. Stenberg’s standing dropped 3 points, while Fischer gained the most, jumping from 6 percent to 14 percent.
Public Policy’s analysis:
Bruning has had a lot of less than positive press coverage in recent days and it appears to be taking a toll on his image. His net favorability has declined 19 points over the course of this year. He was at +45 (57/12) in January but now he’s at just +26 (48/22). It’s definitely to Bruning’s advantage that he has three opponents rather than one. 37% of voters want him and 36% want someone else but since the ‘someone else’ is split three different ways it allows him to maintain a pretty healthy lead overall.
Stenberg interestingly has almost identical favorability numbers to Bruning at 46/22 but for whatever reason that’s not translating directly into votes for him. Although Stenberg has seemingly been trying to run to the front runner’s right, Bruning actually has his strongest numbers with voters describing themselves as ‘very conservative,’ at a 47-15 advantage. It’s moderates who split their votes most evenly. So at least at this point Bruning doesn’t appear to have a ‘Tea Party’ problem, although that could present itself further down the road.
The favorability numbers are troubling for Fischer: The survey of 400 Republican primary voters (taken Sept. 30 to Oct. 2) found 18 percent had an unfavorable view of Fischer, and 16 percent favorable, with a whopping 66 percent undecided. That would seem to indicate people don’t really know her.
However, State Democrats continue to pound away on Bruning and his Nelnet cabin, hoping to further weaken the frontrunner.
“If Jon Bruning thinks it’s no big deal to buy a $675,000 cabin and not list it as required, he’s been spending too much time out in the sun,” said Jim Rogers, executive director of the Nebraska Democratic Party. “Most Nebraskans don’t own $675,000 homes, much less cabins, and most Nebraskans that do own cabins don’t try to cover up their ownership.”
Last month, the Nebraska Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint with the Accountability and Disclosure Commission over Bruning’s failure to list the home on his statement of financial interests for three years. Dems have also questioned how Bruning tripled the value of his non-publicly traded assets since 2007 and has held positions on at least 24 different banks, private businesses and LLCs, not counting personal trusts and private foundations, while serving as attorney general.