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Both establishment and tea party could lose in Nebraska

at 06:30 AM ET, 05/15/2012

If state Sen. Deb Fischer pulls an upset in the Nebraska GOP Senate primary today, we will all be treated to a familiar storyline: The Republican Party establishment has been rebuked yet again, it will say, and could pay a price for it in the general election.

Don’t believe it.
Deb Fischer makes a point during a Nebraska Republican Senate candidate's debate on May 1. (Jeff Beiermann, AP)

Fischer’s win would certainly be an upset — she’s run a meagerly funded campaign and barely registered in the polls for most of the race — but it doesn’t exactly fit the tea party bill.

And the idea that Republicans are enduring a redux of the tea party-dominated 2010 primary season is unfounded at this point.

First of all, unlike 2010, this race is one of relatively few where the party establishment could actually lose.

The proximity of this race to Richard Mourdock’s upset of Sen. Richard Lugar last week in Indiana will lead many to think we’re in another anti-establishment primary season. That’s a mistake

About the only races where we are seeing insurgent candidates challenge establishment favorites are Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin. Arizona isn’t really a tea party race — Rep. Jeff Flake has both establishment and tea party support — and the GOP isn’t going to lose in Texas. So about the only seats where Republicans could see their chances hurt are in Michigan and Wisconsin.

In every other contested GOP primary — Florida, Missouri and Maine — it’s hard to say just who the establishment candidate is because things are so jumbled.

Republicans, meanwhile, have little or no reason to fear primary upsets in top races in Ohio, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia, Massachusetts and Nevada.

In other words, we’re not going to see the succession of tea party upsets like we did two years ago.

Second, Fischer doesn’t even fit the bill. In fact, of the three candidates in the race, she had the least institutional tea party support.

The most high-profile tea party groups lined up behind her opponents, with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and his Senate Conservatives Fund (along with the Club for Growth) lining up behind state Treasurer Don Stenberg, and the Tea Party Express, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum backing state Attorney General Jon Bruning. She was an afterthought in that equation, and only got Sarah Palin’s and Herman Cain’s backing in recent days; Stenberg was the legitimate tea party favorite in this race, but the tea party was split.

Indeed, given Bruning’s establishment support, it appears both the tea party (Stenberg) and the establishment (Bruning) might lose despite both sides spending millions.

Also, unlike tea party candidates before her, it doesn’t appear obvious that Fischer will be a liability for the Republican Party in the general election — at least, any moreso than the other two candidates in the race would have been.

True, she’ll have to start raising much more money than she raised before (she pulled in less than $400,000 through late April), but everything from the primary campaign suggests she’s a solid candidate who should be able to win in a ruby red state like Nebraska. (Also worth noting: the erstwhile frontrunner is Bruning, whose baggage has been well-documented by the local press, and Stenberg has lost three Senate campaigns already.)

As with the Lugar primary, the tea party meme will be a convenient one to attach to this race.

But even more so than Indiana, Nebraska doesn’t fit the bill.

Romney up 3 in NYT/CBS poll: A New York Times/CBS survey has former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney edging out President Obama 46 percent to 43 percent, within the poll’s four-point margin of error.

Last month, Obama and Romney were tied at 46 percent in the news organizations’ polling.

Romney leads with independents 43 to 36 percent. Twenty-five percent of voters said they were less likely to back Obama because of his position on gay marriage — a number that mirrors a Gallup poll from late last week.

Also interesting: Two-thirds of people think Obama’s gay marriage decision was political, while 24 percent said he did it because he thought it was the right policy.

Americans Elects seeks way forward: Americans Elect, the group that has worked on securing ballot access for a yet-to-be-named middle-ground presidential candidate, has failed to meet a self-imposed deadline for finding that candidate.

In a statement released by the group late Monday, Americans Elect CEO Kahlil Byrd says the group has yet to find a candidate who earns enough support to enter the group’s June online convention, and that by rule, the primary process should come to an end.

But he said there is still desire to find a candidate, and the group will explore its options. It will announce its plans on Wednesday.

“Every step of the way, AE has conferred with its community before making major decisions,” Byrd said. “We will do the same this week before determining next steps for the immediate future.”

Warren launches Glass-Steagall petition: Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) launched an online petition Monday calling for the revival of the Glass-Steagall Act, a bank restriction passed in 1933 and repealed in 1999.

“I’m calling on Congress to put Wall Street reform back on the agenda,” Warren wrote in an e-mail to the 900,000 supporters of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Combined with her call for JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to resign, Warren has started to successfully pivot back to her strength as a consumer advocate after a week of struggling to respond to questions about her Native American heritage from Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Fixbits:

Obama says Americans are on his side when it comes to same-sex marriage.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) doesn’t like Romney’s self-deportation policy.

It’s official: Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) will run against Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) in their merged district.

New York lawmakers move to shift their primary from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13.

Haley Barbour says Romney should keep it boring with his vice presidential pick.

Must-reads:

Why Mitt Romney shouldn’t hide his Mormon leadership” — Dave Ulrich, Washington Post

Obama hones message to women in commencement speech” — David Nakamura, Washington Post

 
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