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Another Cabinet secretary leaves; GOP delighted

September 20, 2007 |  2:22 am

Some rare good news for Republicans this morning.

President Bush is expected to announce the resignation of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

That's not the good news. The good news is Johanns, a popular former governor of Nebraska, is expected to run to fill the Senate seat being vacated next year by Republican Chuck Hagel. Strong Senate candidates like Johanns with proven popularity and existing statewide name recognition are harder to find these days than agriculture secretaries.

And despite Nebraska's historic proclivity to vote Republican in presidential elections (over the last half-century no other state has voted for GOP presidents more), the party is already in the Senate hole. It must defend fully 22 of the 34 Senate seats up in 2008 amid a war that is unpopular at the moment, some old warhorses retiring and a president with poll numbers only slightly improved in recent weeks.

Johanns, a former practicing attorney and, until 1988, a Democrat, was elected mayor of Lincoln in 1991. No one ran against him four years later. In 1998, the low-key Johanns ran for governor and won with 54% of the vote. Four years later he became the first Republican reelected governor of Nebraska since 1956.

He won that election with 69% of the vote to his opponent's 28%.

--Andrew Malcolm