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Nebraska's GOP Senate primary: another tea party surprise?

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Now, despite millions spent on behalf of her opponents' campaigns and her own relative lack of funds, Fischer seems to have a chance of winning. Polling is relatively sparse, but one automated survey conducted Sunday by the polling firm We Ask America showed Fischer in first place with 39 percent, compared with Bruning's 34 percent and 18 percent for Mr. Stenberg.

A second poll, commissioned by Fischer-backer Ricketts, showed Fischer in a close second place, at 35 percent to Bruning's 38 percent.

"Some Republicans in the state are less comfortable with Bruning and don’t know that Stenberg is the best person to run against Bob Kerrey, and that’s created opening for Deb Fischer," says Michael Wagner, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Still, Professor Wagner cautions that the recent polls say nothing about who was polled and what was asked, and are fairly unreliable. "It could well be that the race is getting closer, but we have no way of knowing," he says.

The campaign has garnered attention – and a lot of outside money, mostly directed toward either Bruning or Stenberg – because of the importance of the seat to Republican hopes of regaining control of the Senate. If the Obama-Biden ticket is reelected, Republicans need to flip four seats to win Senate control, and Nebraska is one of their best shots. (If a Republican wins the White House, the GOP vice president becomes Senate president, empowered to break ties. In that case, Republicans would need a net gain of three seats.)

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