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Nebraska GOP Senate primary upturned by Deb Fischer

May 15, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Nebraska Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning, right, talks to Steve Dunning of Omaha as he takes a break from waving to passing motorists in Omaha. Bruning is competing against state Sen. Deb Fischer and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Ben Nelson.
Nebraska Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning, right, talks to Steve Dunning of Omaha… (Nati Harnik / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- An insurgency within an insurgency could be emerging in the GOP Senate primary in Nebraska, where a lesser-known upstart appears to be gaining on two other conservative candidates in yet another battle between tea party activists and the GOP establishment this election cycle.

Deb Fischer, a state legislator endorsed by Sarah Palin, has surged heading into Tuesday’s election, according to a recent survey, beyond establishment-backed Attorney General Jon Bruning and Dan Stenberg, the state treasurer. Her possible rise offers another twist in the race for an open seat that provides that had been considered among the easier pick-ups for Republicans with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s retirement.

As happened in Indiana last week, when tea party upstart Richard Mourdock defeated veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, the Nebraska primary shows the restive ranks within the GOP.

Even before Fischer’s surge, the party had already splintered as the GOP establishment and some tea party groups rallied behind Bruning, but key conservative leaders, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) backed Stenberg, the Nebraska state treasurer.

But bruising primaries rarely help a candidate, and failing to unite behind one contender could hurt the GOP heading into the general election. The winner of Tuesday’s election will face Bob Kerrey, the state’s well-known former governor and senator, who is returning to political life after working out of the Cornhusker state in New York City for a decade.

The advantage heading into fall had been tilted toward the Republicans, as Nebraska remains a conservative state and, as the Cook Political Report notes, Kerrey has not been on the ballot since 1994.

Yet an upset could upturn the dynamics once again.

Staff writer Paul West contributed to this report.

Twitter.com/LisaMascaroinDC

Original source: Nebraska GOP Senate primary upturned by Deb Fischer

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