Why Would Anyone Support A Republican In Nebraska's Democratic Senate Primary?

05/05/2008 02:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The first time I ever wrote about Tony Raimondo at DWT was on September 8, 2007. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) had just decided that he wouldn't be seeking re-election to the Senate. "Nearly half a dozen Republicans have been salivating over the prospects of winning the Nebraska Senate seat and one far, far right extremist, Jon Bruning, had already challenged Hagel to a primary duel. Aside from Bruning, other wingnuts promising to jump in after Monday are former Governor Mike Johanns, former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub and businessmen Pat Flynn and Tony Raimondo."

Two of those Republicans are still in the hunt, ex-Gov. Johanns and businessman Tony Raimondo, except Raimando assessed his chances to beat Johanns in a Republican Party primary and decided to declare himself a Democrat. Really. There's also an actual Democrat in the race, Scott Kleeb.

Raimondo was in the news this weekend because he triggered the millionaires amendment on Friday by writing himself a $450,000 check. Many Democrats in Nebraska haven't bought into Raimondo's "conversion" in the first place, and are now uncomfortable that just as he's talking about laying off more Nebraska workers from his business-- not Chinese workers from his business there though-- he's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to attempt to buy himself a Senate seat.

In Columbus, Neb., orders at Behlen Manufacturing Company for its pre-engineered metal buildings have slowed. So far, the company, which employs 1,100 people, has avoided layoffs, Tony Raimondo, the chairman, said.

Behlen plans to build up inventory and perhaps shift workers into busier areas, like building grain silos, while waiting for better days, he said. But if trends continue, about 50 workers would be vulnerable.

"We're on the bubble," Mr. Raimondo said. "The odds are against us that we will get through the summer without layoffs."

When Nebraska Democrats and working men and women think about Raimondo's much-touted "business experience," the first thing that comes to mind is how, in typically Republican fashion, he took over a company, Behlen, Inc and almost immediately set out to decertify the union, soon followed by exporting good paying Nebraska manufacturing jobs to low-paying China, also in typically Republican fashion.

His own TV ad sounds like it comes right from a GOP playbook -- denigrating "academics" and smart people and extolling the virtues of "businessmen." I'd say most Americans have had enough of that bull under the "CEO-President" and his pals at Enron, WorldCom, Big Pharma, Big Gas and Oil, etc.

I think Raimondo, with all his money and the help of his pal Ben Nelson, the reactionary Democrat who votes more frequently with the GOP than any Senate Democrat-- and even more than Joe Lieberman-- has a chance to beat Kleeb in the primary next week (May 13). But can he beat his fellow Republican, Mike Johanns? Virtually impossible. He will depress the vote of the Democratic base and anger Republicans who don't like a self-serving opportunist and turncoat.

And, being a Republican, albeit one trying to make believe he isn't, Raimondo's positions are neither fish nor foul. Well... they actually are pretty foul. To start, he takes the very Republican position of opposing universal health care (something strongly supported by Kleeb-- and virtually all actual Democrats). His position of taxes for the wealthy are-- word for word-- the same as Bush's and McCain's, and very different from Kleeb's, who favors tax breaks for the middle class and wants to end the give-aways for the wealthiest Americans. Raimondo also takes the Republican position on the occupation-- in effect endless war forever and ever-- as opposed to Kleeb who wants to start drawing down our troop presence and turning responsibility over to the Iraqis. One sounds like a Democrat and one sounds like a Republican; that's because one is a Republican and one is a Democrat. And, as we saw in the Louisiana special election this weekend, Democrats win by showing they are different from Republicans, not by claiming to be just like them.