Nebraska Woman surprises the Pundits

Nebraska is a very red state. It’s conservative in a weirdly independent way. Nebraskans will frequently back total outsiders and they proved they were willing to dump establishment candidates in the Republican Senate primary. A Sarah-Palin backed woman will face ex-Senator and Democrat Bob Kerry in the fall. The punditry is calling her win a stunner! She beat two well-known pols and attorneys in the race that had plenty of money and establishment backing.  She was not the Tea Party candidate either.

Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer wrested the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Attorney General Jon Bruning Tuesday night, riding a burst of late momentum to pull off an unexpected victory.

Her stunning come-from-behind performance amounts to a warning flare about the volatility of the primary season and the unintended impact of outside groups.

Fischer, a rancher and little-known state lawmaker, maintained a positive, above-the-fray tone while Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg consistently traded blistering barbs. But she also benefited from a flurry of outside spending against Bruning, the front-running establishment favorite for more than a year who watched his polling lead evaporate during the final week of the campaign.

The victory sends Fischer to the general election as a favorite over former Sen. Bob Kerrey, who easily disposed of four lesser-known opponents for a shot at the open seat being left vacant by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson. Nebraska is a must-win for Republicans if they are to acquire the four pickups necessary to flip control of the Senate this fall.

WP’s Jennifer Rubin is giddy and wishful thinking as far as I’m concerned.  Nebraska is not any kind of a bellweather state.  It’s a weird outlier.  I lived there way too long to expect anything in Nebraska to resemble any place else.

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.

4. Bruning wasn’t a flawless candidate by any means. The Fix noted that Bruning’s baggage has been well-documented by the local press, and Stenberg has lost three Senate campaigns already.”

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.

The weirdest thing is that the two men were backed by the likes of Huckabee, Santorum, and DeMint.  Palin picked the winner.  This is an extremely rural state and it doesn’t surprise me that a rancher that wasn’t an Omaha-associated pol won.  Every one outside of Omaha hates Omaha in that state.  Lincoln is probably on the top of the Omaha hater list.  So, any way, this should be an interesting race to watch.

12 Comments on “Nebraska Woman surprises the Pundits”

  1. Cannot stand Jennifer Rubin’s regular column… however…

    “Palin’s highest value in the GOP may be in finding talented female candidates (e.g. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley).”

    This perhaps may be true.

  2. RalphB says:

    Charles Pierce spent some time in Nebraska and has an analysis of her win. She’s got a billionaire funder who spent a fortune carpet bombing her opposition.

    Deb Fischer’s Moneyed Miracle & an Establishment Fail

    At the urging of former Gov. Kay Orr, an early supporter of Fischer’s, Republican rock star Sarah Palin endorsed Fischer. Palin’s endorsement was quickly followed by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Both recorded late robocalls for Fischer’s campaign, which were played over the final days of the election.

    (Let us pause for a minute and consider the notion of Rootin’ Princess Dumbass of The Northwoods — she of the 37 percent disapproval rating among Republicans — as a “rock star.” Who we thinking? The Shaggs? We continue.)

    Finally, though, the nickel — actually several hundred thousand of them — drops:

    Palin and Fortenberry gave Fischer’s camp some much-needed credibility, but [Joe] Ricketts gave her the money. A super PAC created by Ricketts to fight government spending put $250,000 into television ads touting Fischer and criticizing Bruning’s character.

    And there you have the miracle of Deb Fischer. The guy who bought Theo Epstein decided to buy himself a Senate seat from Nebraska. My man Chuck Todd seemed a little baffled by the whole business, largely because the election doesn’t fit into the insurgent-establishment paradigm beloved of our pundits this year. For the longest time, even though he was the state’s attorney general, Jon Bruning was the insurgent. Among the national conservative pressure groups, Don Stenberg, the state treasurer and former AG, was the insurgent. The entire campaign was fought out on the presumption that none of these three people were “the Establishment,” and that may be the truest thing about the final result. Deb Fischer won because there is no Republican “establishment” anymore.

    • dakinikat says:


    • ecocatwoman says:

      The Tea Party darlings elected in 2010, followed by more of the same & Congress will be like a daycare center filled with spoiled brats, all stamping their feet and throwing temper tantrums, yelling NO I DON’T WANT TO EAT MY SPINACH!

    • quixote says:

      I think our man Charlie is being a tad blinded by his anti-Republicanism. And I’d trust Dak’s assessment of Nebraska over that of someone who visited for a week or two. The reason I’m sceptical is that I gather she was still outspent, but Mr. Moneybags provided enough money so that she could at least stay in the game. It doesn’t matter how good you are, in our current system with no money you don’t get out of the gate.

      Part of what he bankrolled were the bad-character ads about Bruning, which both allowed her to stay clean(er) and brought that stuff forward before the general. You honestly think the Dems wouldn’t have used that against him? From the Repubs point of view, they’re better off running a better candidate.

      So, to imply she rode in on a tide of money and is otherwise useless doesn’t seem to square with the facts. It bothers me how easily that construction saddles women’s wins.

      Meg Whitman outspent Jerry Brown 30 to 1, and it didn’t help her.

      • dakinikat says:

        I knew Governor Kay Orr quite well when I was a twenty-thirty something running around in political and women’s civics leader circles in my day. She is savvy as all get out. She wouldn’t back this woman unless she thought she could bring something to the game. Her name still carries hay out in the western part of the state.

      • dakinikat says:

        Yeah, I saw that. I’d be all for it if it would kill his political career and get him out of here. He’s been an absolute disaster! Our unemployment rate has soared under him. Some pundits appear to be not fact checking their wish list.

      • RalphB says:

        Oh come on PAD guy. The two male candidates attacked each other for a long time and drove their own negatives sky high. Then the third candidate carpet bombs the one still standing. If you don’t think that can work then I don’t know what to say to you. That she is a woman has absolutely nothing to do with it.

        All three candidates were basically wingnuts so it doesn’t matter a lot. This just give Kerrey a small chance to win.

  3. RalphB says:

    Kind of OT but being a straight white male who likes women, this is a great post. I can see my grandsons understanding it well.

    Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

    I’ve been thinking of a way to explain to straight white men how life works for them, without invoking the dreaded word “privilege,” to which they react like vampires being fed a garlic tart at high noon. It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

    So, the challenge: how to get across the ideas bound up in the word “privilege,” in a way that your average straight white man will get, without freaking out about it?

    Being a white guy who likes women, here’s how I would do it: