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Why Sarah Palin's pick could triumph in Nebraska's US Senate race in fall

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In fact, her two main competitors, Bruning and Mr. Stenberg, each earned endorsements from key tea party constituencies. Stenberg was the choice of Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina and his Senate Conservatives Fund, as well as the antitax Club for Growth.

Bruning – whom both Fischer and Stenberg sought to cast as the most "establishment" candidate – was endorsed by the Tea Party Express, Citizens United, and former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

A Public Policy Poll (PPP) just before the primary showed Fischer surging ahead – and also indicated that her surge had little to do with ideology. Bruning actually led among tea party voters, 39 percent to 36 percent; among those who described themselves as "very conservative," Fischer was barely leading, 38 percent to 37 percent. 

"The shift in this race has a lot more to do with the candidates' images than it does with issues or philosophy," PPP noted in its analysis. Some political pundits have speculated that Fischer owes her victory primarily to the flawed natures of her opponents: Stenberg was a relatively weak candidate who has run for Senate, and lost, three previous times. Bruning has been the subject of scrutiny regarding his tenure as attorney general and the source of his wealth.

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