Terry-White ads: Bush vs. Obama?

Terry leads White in fundraising

Published Monday, September 13, 2010: By Robynn Tysver, OMAHA WORLD-HERALD

George W. Bush vs. Barack Obama.

Battle lines have been drawn along presidential lines in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District race as Rep. Lee Terry, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, State Sen. Tom White, focus on the U.S. budget deficit.

Terry is trying to pin Obama's deficit spending on White while White takes aim at Bush's deficit spending during Terry's 12 years in Congress.

“They are both being sensitive to the voters' mood about the budget climate and being fiscally responsible,” said Randy Adkins, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

White and Terry are engaged in what observers expect to be one of the closest races in Nebraska this year. Each believes the political tail winds are blowing in his favor. White is counting on an anti-incumbency turnout to sweep him into office while Terry believes there is an anti-Democratic mood that will help key his victory.

The two are airing television advertisements that put the deficit squarely at the center of the race.

Polls show that the public feels considerable angst over the nation's economy. In a mid-July survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of those surveyed said reducing the nation's deficit should be the federal government's priority.

The deficit grew to $1.4 trillion under Obama, who had enacted a $787 billion stimulus plan — which later grew to $862 billion — to try to jump-start the ailing economy. When Bush left office just months after his $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, the deficit had reached about $500 billion. (Financial institutions have since repaid some TARP money.)

Democrats have argued that the recession Obama inherited forced the federal government to spend, including the stimulus, to keep the economy afloat.

Republicans say the stimulus has not helped the economy and that the growing deficit hampers its recovery.

White argues that Terry cannot run away from deficit spending, which grew under the Bush administration, when Terry voted in support of Bush's budgets. White also notes that Terry supported Bush's TARP.

White also rejects the idea that he can be tied to Obama's deficit spending, saying he has yet to cast a vote in Washington.

White is on record as saying he would have supported Obama's health care bill in some form, and he also supported Obama's stimulus package.

“The idea that Mr. Terry is going to blame me for his 12 years of wild spending, it's not going to work. I don't know anyone who is going to buy it,” White said.

White said he would stand behind his record in the Nebraska Legislature, where he voted for tax cuts and balanced budgets.

“It's pretty frustrating when people try to tie Washington to me ... and I was in the Legislature doing my job,” he said.

Terry said White deserves no credit for the state's balanced budget, noting that it is mandated by law. He also said it is fair to tie White to Obama's spending, because White is a member of the president's party, which is the party in power.

“When we deficit spent, it was a fraction of what it is now,” Terry said.

Two hurdles White may face in resurrecting Bush and his years of deficit spending are the voters themselves and their short memories, Adkins said.

“Voters tend to look at what's happened since the last cycle. They don't look back on what's happened four, six or seven years ago,” he said.

But Terry has hurdles of his own. Polls consistently show voters are angry at Congress — especially incumbents.

“If you look at congressional approval ratings, it's at an historic low,” Adkins said.


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