Here’s a billboard that gets everything wrong:
Charles Herbster is running in the Republican primary for Governor of Nebraska. Most Nebraska motorists zipping by this billboard will recognize the red-capped menace thumbing his approval of his campaign’s former Ag/Rural Advisory Committee chair. Most Nebraska motorists will not recognize the woman standing in front of Red Cap’s other thumb—”What, random cowgirls endorse Herbster? Whatever.”
Only certain party animals—and the right-wingers among those animals are the folks more likely to vote in the May 10 primary—will recognize that cowgirl is South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who endorsed Herbster in February after frequently flying in Herbster’s private planes. But the moment we identify the cowgirl, we must ask…
- “Great” minds? By no objective standard may either Kristi Noem or Donald Trump be characterized as “great” minds. Neither has produced a memorable speech or original political thought or philosophy.
- “Think”? None of these three characters really “think”; they just carry out the playbook assigned to them by their common political groomer, Corey Lewandowski.
- “Alike”? Herbster is a lot like Noem and Trump, but only in the emptiness of his hat:
…former running mate Theresa Thibodeau, who is now running against Herbster for the Republican nomination, pointed to Herbster’s lack of interest in learning about state issues and his obsession with national politics.
One example: Herbster recently proposed publicly that Nebraska should consider adopting a college savings plan. The State of Nebraska has had college savings plans since the mid-1990s.
“He has no clue how Nebraska works,” Thibodeau told the Examiner. “The reason I stayed on longer than I should have is because I thought, ‘Holy cow!’ … Somebody’s going to have to figure out how to not have our state going to shambles” [Aaron Sanderford, “Ex-Running Mate, Former Staffers Call Herbster Unfit to Be Nebraska Governor,” Nebraska Examiner, 2022.03.28].
…his constant out-of-state campaigning:
“He was never there,” one former staffer said. “We couldn’t get him to campaign. They spaced out the (social media) posts to make it look like he was campaigning, but they were from the times when he bothered to step foot back in the state” [Sanderford, 2022.03.28].
…and his philosophically rootless lack of leadership:
Former staffers’ most common Herbster criticism: They describe Herbster as a “traveling salesman” who will tell any person he is speaking with what he thinks that person wants to hear.
“His political philosophy and his beliefs are not rooted in any belief system,” another former staffer said. “There was never any political foundation on key issues.”
…A common theme of staff discussions was Herbster’s willingness to hire Nebraska consultants to advise him on Nebraska issues and then disregard them when the answers were hard to hear.
“It was his way or the highway,” a third former staffer said. “He brought in all these Nebraskans for advice on how to win, and he listened to none of them. He followed the nationals (national political consultants), and he yelled at all of us in front of people.”
Thibodeau, when asked why she decided to come forward now and not when she quit Herbster’s campaign, said she was not criticizing Herbster to benefit her bid, which is polling at a distant fourth.
She said she couldn’t wait any longer because Herbster has a chance to win the primary race, and she wants Nebraska Republicans to know what they’d be getting: a “non-existent, figurehead governor” [Sanderford, 2022.03.28].
- “Endorse Herbster”? Wikipedia’s list of endorsements shows more Nebraska minds endorsing Herbster’s opponent Jim Pillen, including current Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska’s first woman Governor Kay Orr. If Nebraska motorists have time to ponder this billboard, they may have to ask why it doesn’t show any great Nebraska minds.
This billboard may do more to boost Noem’s brand than Herbster’s. She can point to this billboard as evidence that her image is just as powerful for promoting candidates out of state as the Donald’s—arguably more important, since Herbster placed her picture in front of Donald’s (Mar-a-Lago, are you paying attention?). Of course, if Herbster keeps leaning on Noem’s good looks, his failure to win the primary could put yet another dent in her national cowgirl brand.