Unbelievably, Jim Suttle survived his own campaign. Not to mention Tuesday's mayoral recall election in Omaha.
This is testament to the basic decency and even temper of the local electorate, as well as to fate handing hizzoner such an obviously self-interested and vaguely creepy lynch mob. It helped that the recall campaign's money man blatantly wanted Suttle's job for himself.
And the prospect of Dave Nabity as Omaha's mayor is enough to drive a man to . . . Council Bluffs.
Iowa, that is.
Gamblin' joints, trailer parks.
Suttle lived to fight out another couple-odd years at city hall -- or a couple of odd years, take your pick -- by 51 percent to 49. It shouldn't have been that close. (See "Recall People, Creepy" and "Nabity, Dave.")
But it was that close, and it would be hard not to lay that one right at the clay feet of Forward Omaha, the moniker for Suttle's anti-recall effort, and its insane scheme to round up the homeless at local shelters, bus them to the election commissioner's office to register and vote, and then pay them $5 to "train" as "canvassers." Wink wink, nudge . . . know what I mean, know what I mean?
That a move as smooth (not) as that was a godsend to the recall forces is evidenced by the election mailer above. Several of those went out in the campaign's waning days. And ads like this one began to flood the Omaha airwaves:
SEE WHAT I mean?
Without Suttle's political "friends" handing Nabity's Citizens for Omaha's Future the baseball bat it used to bludgeon the mayor, the spread -- again -- really shouldn't have been just 2 percentage points. Not even close.
At the outset of the recall effort, an Omaha World-Herald poll found that only 47 percent of respondents favored recalling Suttle, despite his 33-percent approval rating. Some 39 percent in the survey favored ousting the mayor, while 14 percent just didn't know.
Not only that, but according to the World-Herald's poll story Oct. 24, just about everybody had at least some misgivings about the whole thing:
If a recall election were held, Suttle might benefit from uncertainty over his potential replacement. The poll found that a large majority was concerned “somewhat” or “a lot” about voting in a recall election without knowing who the next mayor would be.
That concern was expressed even by about half of those who said they would sign a recall petition or vote to remove Suttle.
THAT WAS A LOT for the anti-recall forces to work with. They squandered it. More precisely, Forward Omaha squandered that public-opinion largess -- all in one swell foop, as a popular Omaha disc-jockey used to say decades ago.
If all the mayor's men had managed to pick up just half of the undecided vote -- which you kind of figure could break that way unmolested -- Suttle wins in a cakewalk. Instead, the undecideds went roughly 10 percentage points to 4 percentage points for the recall-istas.
When Forward Omaha showed up at the homeless shelters with those school buses, the only bum's rush ended up being that of undecided voters into the "throw the bum out" camp. No doubt that brought a smile to even the angriest recaller's face.
In the end, though, the anti-Suttle camps garnered fewer votes by Tuesday night than signatures collected on recall petitions, and just 8,000 more votes than the final number of names verified by the Douglas County election commissioner back in December. Basically, the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee and Citizens for Omaha's Future didn't accomplish too much during the electioneering phase of the recall effort.
NOT ACCOMPLISHING much, however, beats beating yourself every time. Except in Omaha, by God, Nebraska, where the Good Lord watches out for little children, fools, drunks . . . and Jim Suttle.