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.