Fischer victory in Republican senate primary “stunning”

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May 16th, 2012

Lincoln, NE – After yesterday’s primary vote, the matchup is set to see who will follow Democrat Ben Nelson in the U.S. Senate. Former Senator, Democrat Bob Kerrey, won his primary contest with 80% of the vote. State Senator Deb Fischer of Valentine claimed the Republican nomination in an upset with 41% of the vote. Political science professor, John Hibbing, of the University of Nebraska Lincoln told Grant Gerlock of NET News that Fischer’s nomination was a stunning victory.

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State Sen. Deb Fischer won 41% of the vote in Tuesday's primary, with a remarkable come-from-behind victory. (Photo credit Nebraska Watchdog)

“Even two or three days ago I thought, well this is interesting. She’s at lease a competitive second, Hibbing said. “But this is why we have elections. And it continues a history of really unexpected primaries in Nebraska.”

Attorney General Bruning had been the favorite going into election day, although polls had shown Fischer closing the gap. In the end, she beat Attorney General Jon Bruning by five points and State Treasurer Don Stenberg by 12 points.

“It wasn’t 10 votes, and there won’t be a recount, so she won,” Hibbing said. “Not a lopsided victory, but as we say, a stunning one.”

Fischer’s victory was made more unlikely considering the difference in fundraising among the candidates and spending on television ads. However, she may have been helped by outside groups such as the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Ending Spending Action Fund which collectively spent millions of dollars in Nebraska, much of it criticizing Bruning on taxes and spending.

The general election puts Fischer up against former Governor and Senator, Bob Kerrey. While Fischer has not run a statewide campaign before now, Hibbing still considered Kerrey to be an underdog as a Democrat. Hibbing believed statements from the candidates that they would like to keep the campaign positive were honest.

“On the other hand, this is a post-Citizens United era that we live in which means there’s going to be a lot of money floating around in interest groups and I’m afraid they’re going to have something to say about dragging the campaign down a bit,” Hibbing said.

With control of the U.S. Senate in the balance, outside groups are certain to have their say on how Nebraskans should decide in November.

For the complete interview with John Hibbing, click on the audio bar at the top of this page.

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