It's been an interesting couple of days in Nebraska's Republican Senate primary. It pains me that I've been too busy with my own campaign to give this race the attention it deserves.
We've all seen for months as outside groups have kept Don Stenberg's campaign alive, touting him as if he's some sort of national hero while tearing down Jon Bruning at the same time. That effort may have been successful chipping away at Bruning's support, but it doesn't seem to have boosted Stenberg's chances (which is sad because it would have been great to see him try that "patriot" nonsense against Bob Kerrey). Instead, it appears the window of opportunity may have opened for Deb Fischer, and she's making a hard push to capitalize in the closing week of the campaign.
Last weekend, word began trickling out of a poll by the Fischer campaign showing their candidate less than 5 points down to Bruning, 25.6% - 29.8%, with Stenberg having fallen to third at 18% and 24% remaining undecided. Then, on Wednesday, Fischer produced a letter from Sarah Palin endorsing her campaign. The next day, 1st District Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry put up an online video endorsing her as well.
Then, just last night, word hit the street of Joe Ricketts (Pete's dad) making a major ad buy for unknown purposes. That had to cause a bit of panic for the Bruning campaign - rightfully so as the fruits of Ricketts' fortune have hit the airwaves, pointing a big finger explicitly stating "FOR CHARACTER, ANYONE BUT BRUNING":
Interestingly, another Ricketts ad directly supports Fischer, touts Palin's endorsement, and paints Bruning and Stenberg with the same broad brush as "two lifetime politicians." The ad then calls upon voters to "surprise the world" by supporting "one of us" - Deb Fischer:
Where does all this leave us? Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. But, this is all coming together pretty late, and I have to think there's a pretty good chance it's happening too late to change the outcome of this race. Yes, Fischer could succeed in this attempt to "Surprise the World", but that concurrent message of "Anyone But Bruning" has to be cause for concern because it only serves to split the anti-Bruning vote. And, a lot of those votes will still go to Stenberg.
I still think it most likely that a much damaged and tarnished Bruning emerges from this primary. He's the candidate with an actual campaign, and the vote against him is simply split in too (i.e. "two") many ways. But, we'll know soon enough. Stay tuned!