Remember the last time we heard about the Republican U.S. Senate race in Nebraska? That debate when one candidate said the other was a weirdo for following his 14-year-old daughter on Twitter.
Turns out that debate is notable for another interesting tidbit: The likely winner of the Republican primary tonight.
In a remarkable turn of events, Deb Fischer, a member of the Nebraska State Legislature, is on the verge of capturing a victory in a race in which she was barely even competitive two months ago. The latest from Public Policy Polling has her up 4 points on Jon Bruning, the Nebraska Attorney General. That’s within the margin of error, but it’s only the latest example of the insane amount of momentum she has built over the past few weeks.
“It’s a pretty incredible shift,” said Jim Williams, a polling analyst at PPP.
A week after a unifying victory in Indiana, Republicans and even the tea party is divided on which of the three candidates to back.
On one hand, tea party and evangelical conservative favourites Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee are making a furious last-minute push today for Bruning. They’re joined officially by the Tea Party Express, which was one of the tea party groups that helped organise support to propel insurgent Richard Mourdock to oust 36-year Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana last week.
On another hand, you have … tea party and evangelical conservative favourite Sarah Palin backing Fischer. Other tea party groups have endorsed Don Stenberg, Nebraska’s state treasurer.
And all the while, some like The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis are wondering whether Republicans have missed an opportunity with the infighting during the primary season as they prepare to vie for the seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, who is retiring.
Fischer is a beneficiary of the infighting between Bruning and Stenberg, which turned the campaign relatively negative. It’s helped that Joe Ricketts, the Chicago Cubs co-owner, has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Super PAC ads like this one:
As the campaign has turned negative, both Bruning and Stenberg have seen their favorability ratings dip drastically, while Fischer has crept up positively from under the radar.
Bruning has seen his net favorability dip 27 points, while Stenberg’s has dropped 17 points. Fischer, meanwhile, now has a net favorability rating of plus-45.
“It does happen,” Williams said. “Sometimes when you’ve got two front-runners going at each other so negatively, the third person kind of goes positive and sneaks in there.”
PPP compared it to the 2009 Democratic race for Virginia governor, when the two front-runners beat up on each other with negative advertising. This made Sen. Creigh Deeds look “like a saint,” and he ended up winning by 10 points.
PPP’s Tom Jensen put it this way in his analysis: “This one could go either way but whatever the final outcome it’s another lesson in the weird dynamics of 3 way races — and the incredible power of negative advertising.”
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