Nelson StratCom

Applause breaks out during the 2012 Legislative Summit at the Strategic Air & Space Museum as Sen. Ben Nelson announces that construction will begin on the new Stratcom headquarters on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. It's unclear who will look after the interests of StratCom and Offutt Air Force Base after Nelson leaves the Senate.

ROBERT BECKER/Journal Star file photo

Lots of moving parts in the new puzzle of who looks after the interests of StratCom and Offutt Air Force Base after Ben Nelson leaves the Senate.

Virtually no one on either side of the political aisle disputes the fact that Nelson has been the go-to guy in terms of protecting metropolitan Omaha's interests -- actually, Nebraska's interests -- in securing the future of StratCom at Offutt.

Nelson has been perfectly positioned for that task -- and not by accident -- as a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Bob Kerrey has lined up Harry Reid's support for his bid to gain seats on both committees if he is elected to succeed Nelson. Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns have agreed that one of them will seek a seat on Armed Services if she defeats Kerrey.

Meanwhile, responsibility for Offutt in the House has moved from Lee Terry to Jeff Fortenberry as a result of congressional redistricting. It's in Fortenberry's district now, although not quite out of Terry's bailiwick since Offutt is such an economic driver in Omaha.

Nelson has been anxious to secure the future of StratCom's location at Offutt before he leaves the Senate at the end of the year.

Last week's awarding of a contract for construction of a new headquarters complex presumably may have achieved that. A contract is a contract.

But you can bet that Nelson is going to want to plunge a shovel into the dirt to physically begin construction before he leaves office.

* * *

Learn from London.

Its eccentric, unpredictable and manic closing ceremony celebrating the Olympic Games included odd and unexpected moments and characters, and produced an electric atmosphere.

OK, no more balloons to celebrate touchdowns at Husker games.

So, no more traditional; let's go eccentric.

How about an unexpected cartoon character bursting out of the tunnel to join the crowd in celebrating a touchdown? A different character each time.

Bugs Bunny, Frankenstein, Frodo, Darth Vader, Yoda, Daffy Duck, running out of the tunnel.


* * *

Fischer has launched what amounts to an introductory TV ad. It's airing statewide, and it's pretty darn good.

The 30-second ad ties her to both Lincoln and rural Nebraska. 

And I think it has a subtle, but effective, gender appeal.

The ad portrays a little girl running across a field as an announcer states: "Growing up in Nebraska, we dream big and reach for the stars."

* * *

Recent telephone polling results presented at last week's legislative summit hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce included Fischer, 55 percent; Kerrey, 34 percent; and Romney with 55 percent and Obama with 33 percent.

While Republicans celebrated those numbers, the Kerrey campaign pointed to a story in The New York Times this month that raised questions about the accuracy of automated dialing surveys that reach only people with land-line telephones. 

One major pollster suggests accuracy requires about 30 percent of the respondents to be cellphone-only users or you miss a major demographic.

"We poll significantly better on cell-only users," Kerrey campaign spokesman Chris Triebsch said.

"The race is much closer."

In the auto-dial poll, Romney led Obama by 47-43 in the competitive Omaha congressional district.

The poll of 1,273 respondents was conducted this month by We Ask America.

Finishing up: 

* Kerrey has accepted an invitation from Fox News to debate Fischer on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. The Fischer campaign still is focused on three debates, but no decisions yet on what follows the State Fair debate on Saturday in Grand Island.

* Bobblection at the Saltdog game at Haymarket Park on Tuesday night: The first 1,000 fans get to choose between a Romney bobblehead and an Obama bobblehead. The first candidate to pass 500 wins the presidential election.

* An unsolicited hint to Omaha as it struggles to fund a mandated sewer separation project that could cost close to $2 billion. Earmarks: Remember them? 

* A factoid lifted from Mike Johanns' budget presentation at town hall meetings: Earmarks, that naughty word, represent 0.29 percent of the federal budget problem.

* Countdown to GBR.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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