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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nebraska Republican Senate Primary: Palin Backed, Deb Fischer, Wins In Stunning Upset

By Susan Duclos

In what all pundits are calling an upset, Deb Fischer, who was outspent at every turn, pulled off a stunning victory with 41 percent of the vote. State Attorney General Jon Bruning took second place with 36 percent and State Treasurer Don Stenberg with 19 percent came in third.

Fischer will now go on to face former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey in November in a race to fill the Senate seat that will be vacated by Democratic Senator Ben Nelson.

For months, Bruning had a clear double-digit lead over Fischer and Stenberg. Few Republicans saw a realistic opportunity for Fischer to overtake Stenberg, and even fewer thought Fischer could pull off a first-place finish.

But in the waning days of the primary, polls showed major movement in Fischer’s direction, and Fischer said her grassroots efforts and positive campaign had finally paid off. Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) and former presidential candidate Herman Cain waded into the race to back Fischer, and a super-PAC controlled by Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts pumped $200,000 into the race to support Fischer and attack Bruning.

Stenberg’s third-place finish was a bruising defeat for fiscal-conservative groups who backed him, including Club for Growth and Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund. The Club spent more than $700,000 to attack Bruning, and DeMint’s PAC dropped more than $1.1 million on ads promoting Stenberg.

Meanwhile, Tea Party Express, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) all backed Bruning, who was widely considered the establishment candidate.

As Jennifer Rubin at Washington Post's Right Turn puts it, "Sarah Palin can still pick em".

Rubin also note 10 different points about the Fischer win in Nebraska. Number three on her list is the amount of GOP women that will be out in force in the 2012 elections.

.....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.

 Palin, via Facebook, offers her congratulations to Fischer:

As recently as a week ago, Deb Fischer was dismissed by the establishment. Why? Because she is not part of the good old boys’ permanent political class. The message from the people of Nebraska is simple and powerful: America is looking for real change in Washington, and commonsense conservatives like Deb Fischer represent that change. I applaud Moms like Deb Fischer who are bold enough to step up and run on a conservative platform to restore America and protect our children’s future. Congratulations to the people of Nebraska. As the Huskers’ fight song goes: “The eyes of the land, upon every hand, are looking at you. Fight on for victory!”

Coming off yesterday's win, Fischer is positioned well heading into November to face off against the Democratic candidate Bob Kerrey, with Public Policy Polling (D) at the end of March, finding she held a double digit lead against Kerrey, 48 to 38 percent among registered voters.  Rasmussen, using the likely voter model, showed Fischer with a 12 point lead over Kerrey, 46 to 34 percent.


Democrats, meanwhile, are defending or facing a retirement in 23 of the 33 Senate seats up for election this year. And of the 10 open seats, seven are held by Democrats and three by Republicans.

Republicans need to flip four seats to take control of the Senate. While these are local state races, it is helpful to Republicans that Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat, is one of the least popular members of Congress with 57 percent viewing him unfavorably and only 23 percent having a favorable view of him. The only member of Congress less popular than Reid is Democratic House Minority leader,Nancy Pelosi, with 63 percent viewing her unfavorably.

While Reid's seat is not being defended because he is not on the 2012 ballot, using his disapproval rating and lack of popularity as Senate Majority leader is an automatic must-do for Republicans, much like they did in 2012, using Nancy Pelosi's unpopularity in campaigns and removing her from the House Speaker position and handing control of the House to Republicans.

Voters may not be able to remove him from the Senate, but they can strip his Senate Majority leader status away.

(Follow-up post "RNC Needs Secondary Campaign Slogan FIRE HARRY REID as Senate Majority Leader)