The Fix: Nebraska

The Fix moves Nebraska Senate from ‘solid Republican’ to ‘lean Republican’

Former senator Bob Kerrey (D) has closed the gap on state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) in the open Nebraska Senate race and now appears to be giving his party a chance to hold on to the seat.

Accordingly, The Fix is moving the Nebraska Senate race from “solid Republican” to “lean Republican.”

This is for two main reasons:

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Deb Fischer, and what (political) money can’t buy

Only about one-tenth of the money spent in Tuesday’s Nebraska GOP Senate primary was spent on Deb Fischer’s behalf.

Yet the little-known state senator emerged victorious over both the establishment-favored candidate and a favorite of the tea party — both of whom, we should note, are statewide elected officials.

Who says candidates don’t matter and money is everything?
Don Stenberg, left, and Deb Fischer during a Nebraska Republican Senate candidate debate. (Jeff Beiermann, AP)

Fischer’s win in the primary Tuesday is a testament to the fact that politics is still about campaigns and that money isn’t the be-all, end-all.

While Fischer’s win wasn’t necessarily a tea party win, it was reminiscent of the insurgent GOP candidacies of 2010, in which a candidate’s character and politics often meant more than money and infrastructure.

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Both establishment and tea party could lose in Nebraska

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.

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A ‘mama grizzly’ upset is possible in Nebraska

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) has been the favorite from the start to succeed retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), but his hold on that mantle has always been tenuous.

First, state Treasurer Don Stenberg nabbed the backing of the influential Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund. Then, former senator Bob Kerrey got in the race and gave Democrats a fighting chance.

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2012 file photo, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP candidate for vice-president in 2008, speaks in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

But with just five days until the GOP primary, neither Stenberg nor Kerrey is looking like Bruning’s biggest obstacle. Instead, the until-now-dark-horse candidate in the race, state Sen. Deb Fischer, has asserted herself and — according to politicos in Nebraska — has a fighting chance to usurp Bruning on Tuesday.

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Once-rosy Senate map looking much less friendly for Republicans

Early 2011 was an avalanche of good news for Republicans intent on regaining control of the Senate.

Early 2012 has been a reality check.

Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) retirement announcement Tuesday and former senator Bob Kerrey’s (D-Neb.) announcement Wednesday that he will seek a return to the Senate punctuated what has been a gradual rolling back of the GOP’s early momentum in the race for control of the Senate in 2012.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) speaks to media outside her office on Capitol Hill in Washington. Snowe’s retirement announcement this week caught the GOP off-guard and complicated its efforts to win a Senate majority in November. (Carolyn Kaster — Associated Press)

Republicans are still primed to compete for a Senate majority, which would require a four-seat gain, but the map looks significantly more difficult than it did a few weeks ago — to say nothing of the political environment itself.

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Bob Kerrey changes his mind, will run for Senate, source says

Updated at 2:46 p.m.

Former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) has changed his mind and plans to run for the open Senate seat in Nebraska, according to a senior Democratic aide.

The aide said Kerrey has called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to inform him of his plans.

Kerrey announced earlier this month that he decided against attempting a return to the Senate, citing his family.

Kerrey’s former campaign manager, Paul Johnson, confirmed to The Fix that Kerrey is reconsidering his previous decision, but stopped short of saying it was a done deal.

“I know he is reconsidering, but I don’t think he has made a final decision,” Johnson said.

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Bob Kerrey won’t seek Nebraska Senate seat

Former senator Bob Kerrey told The Fix on Tuesday that he will not run for the open Senate seat in Nebraska, a move that robs Democrats of their top potential recruit in a tough state.

Democrats eyed a potential Senate comeback for Kerrey after Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced in late December that he wouldn’t seek reelection.

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Ben Nelson retirement: How does it affect the Senate landscape?

Ben Nelson retirement: How does it affect the Senate landscape?

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) decision to leave the Senate in 2012 clearly makes it more difficult for his party to hold his seat but may not have that large an impact on the national Senate playing field.

Here’s why.

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Sen. Ben Nelson won’t seek reelection

Sen. Ben Nelson won’t seek reelection

Updated at 3:45 p.m. with Nelson’s and Kerrey’s remarks

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Tuesday he will not seek reelection, leaving his seat as a strong pickup opportunity for the GOP in the 2012 election.

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Nebraska GOP frontrunner takes a few steps back

Nebraska GOP frontrunner takes a few steps back

The Nebraska Republican primary was supposed to be a coronation for state Attorney General Jon Bruning. Instead, it has revealed some significant holes in the political armor of the man many GOPers expected to beat Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson next year.

Four years after he stepped aside for former governor Mike Johanns in an open Nebraska Senate race, Bruning finally got his chance — and a golden one at that.

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