An upset in Nebraska

In Nebraska, State Senator Deb Fischer has upset Jon Bruning, the state’s attorney general, to win the Republican nomination for the Senate seat held by Democrat Ben Nelson, who is retiring. Late returns had Fischer leading Bruning by 40-36. She will face former Senator Bob Kerrey.

Until recently, Bruning had been leading in the polls. Fischer had been running third, behind Don Stenberg, the state’s treasurer, who was endorsed by Sen. Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth. However, Fishcer, who has never run for statewide office before, received a late endorsement from Sarah Palin. As election day approached, the former Alaska Governor and her husband placed robocalls on Fischer’s behalf. Meanwhile, Bruning was the subject of critical ads paid for by Joe Ricketts and his PAC, the Ending Spending Action Fund.

This race, then, is another victory for a Tea Party-style candidate and another defeat for the Republican establishment candidate.

What does it mean for the general election? Bruning had been crushing Kerrey in the polls, but Fischer does all right. The most recent poll I’ve seen of a Fischer-Kerrey race was a PPP survey from late March in which Fischer led by 10 points (Bruning led by 17 points and Stenberg led by 14). Earlier in March, Rasmussen had Fischer up by 12.

Nebraska is a very Red state. Although Kerrey, an able guy and a war hero, was once quite popular there, he has spent the last 11 years in New York City running a college. He was last elected by Nebraskans in 1994. Unless Fishcher self-destructs, it seems unlikely that Kerrey can ride triumphantly back to the State after all of these years, especially running on a ticket headed by Barack Obama in a year when the Dems are hardly riding a wave. Indeed, the March PPP survey showed that 51 percent of Nebraskans viewed Kerrey unfavorably, compared to only 36 who had a favorable opinion.