Deb Fischer upset favorite Jon Bruning to win the Nebraska Republican primary for Senate by a 41 to 36 percent margin. There are (at least) 10 aspects of the race worth noting.
1. Neither Fischer nor Bruning was the tea party candidate and neither is a non-politician. Bruning is state attorney general. Fischer is a state legislator. Club for Growth, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Freedom Works backed state treasurer Don Stenberg.
2. Sarah Palin still can pick ‘em. She was the only prominent pol to back Fischer. Palin’s highest value in the GOP may be in finding talented female candidates (e.g. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley).
3. Republican women are out in force in the 2012 election. Fischer joins Hawaii’s Linda Lingle, Missouri’s Sarah Steelman, Connecticut’s Linda McMahon, New York’s Wendy Long and New Mexico’s Heather Wilson as prominent female Republicans contending in primaries. With the departure of Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the GOP would have only three women in the Senate; That number could easily double with this crop of female candidates.
5. Fischer is well-positioned to beat former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey in deep-red Nebraska. This is not a case of Republicans throwing caution to the wind.
6. Candidates matter. Simply looking at GOP races as contests between more and less conservative contenders is a mistake and leads to “surprises” (i.e. misguided conventional wisdom that eventually blows up). Reuters reports: “ ‘Despite being a relative novice in the race, Fischer has been a state Senator since 2004 and could be a strong candidate in November,’ said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report in Washington. ‘She’s got a good profile for the state. She does have some experience and I think that she gets some momentum out of the win,’ Duffy said, adding that Fischer is likely to beat Kerrey in November.”
7. With more and more female candidates, the Democrats’ “war on women” meme becomes sillier and sillier.
8. Establishment endorsements remain of limited value. Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and DeMint endorsed losing candidates. These pols may want to think about endorsing less and thereby maintain the illusion they can influence races.
9. The GOP is developing a deep bench. Along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Govs. Chris Christie, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval, the 2012 crop of Senate candidates will fill the ranks of presidential and VP contenders for years to come.
10. Money is overrated. Fischer was outspent $440,000 to Bruning’s $3.6 million.