Could Nebraska be the next state to select a conservative underdog in a Senate primary? Sixty-one year old Deb Fischer, a Nebraska state senator, had been a long-shot candidate for the GOP nomination for Senate against the better funded state attorney general, Jon Bruning, and the more well known state treasurer Don Stenberg.
But a poll released last week showed Fischer just four points behind Bruning, while Stenberg--who has the support of Tea Party favorites like Senators Rand Paul and Jim DeMint--had fallen back to third place. The Tea Party and conservative leaders, in fact, has been split on the candidates, with Herman Cain and Sarah Palin supporting Fischer (a fellow "Mama Grizzly") and Bruning earning the endorsements of Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Rick Santorum.
Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times sees an opening for Fischer in Tuesday's primary:
Deb Fischer, 61, a rancher and state senator who is seeking statewide office for the first time, appears to be gaining ground on Mr. Bruning, 43. Her momentum has not gone unnoticed at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, where aides have quietly started to argue that she would be a strong challenger to Mr. Kerrey in a presidential election year in which Republican turnout is likely to be strong in this deeply conservative state.
A clear sign of uncertainty in the Bruning campaign came late last week when it aimed a negative ad at his two opponents, including Ms. Fischer, who is gaining considerable attention in the closing days of the race because of a salty television ad — featuring two Angus bulls named after her rivals — and an endorsement from Sarah Palin.
The Bruning campaign has looked a bit desperate in the final hours of the campaign; a press release on Monday afternoon trumpeted the fact that five Nebraska TV stations had pulled a negative ad paid for by a PAC supportive of Fischer.
The winner of the GOP primary will face former governor and senator Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who left the Senate in 2001 to run the New School in Manhattan. His replacement, Democrat Ben Nelson, is retiring after two terms. Kerrey has stumbled in his return to Cornhusker State politics, and a poll in late March showed nearly all the Republican challengers besting Kerrey.