Yesterday, in another major Republican primary upset, Deb Fischer won the Senate contest and will face Democrat Bob Kerrey in the Nebraska general election in November. Fischer was in third place in polling conducted throughout the primary campaign, but was endorsed by Sarah Palin and Herman Cain recently, which seems to have caused an upsurge in her support.
Fischer, who is a rancher and a first-term state senator, faced two statewide office holders in the primary, each of whom had national support from interest groups that filled the state with numerous negative ads. The opponent who was favored was Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who was supported by the Tea Party Express, Citizens United, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. The other well-known and well-funded candidate was Don Stenberg, the state Treasurer. He was supported by Jim DeMint’s PAC, Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Club For Growth.
These two candidates and their Super PACs spent over $3 million combined in the primary. They decided to use almost all of the money on negative ads against each other. It is a well-known concept that when there are three candidates, and two of them engage in a negative campaign against each other, the third person will gain votes at the other two candidates’ expense. The best known example of this was the 1992 Presidential race, where Perot’s popularity rose as Clinton and Bush began running negative ads. When they each recognized this, both camps switched to a more positive style, emphasizing their own good qualities. Perot’s popularity then stabilized. He was still a factor in the race until the media mounted its own negative campaign against the Texas entrepreneur to keep a third party from arising.
Fischer becomes a slight favorite over Kerrey in the general election due to a Republican voter advantage in the state. She has staunchly conservative credentials and the GOP is expected to solidify its support behind her. It can be expected as well that, if she seeks Palin’s active support, she will receive it. This campaign provides additional evidence that Ms. Palin retains enormous popularity in the GOP. In this race, she single-handedly defeated perhaps the two most powerful interest groups within the party, the CFG and Tea Party Express. I don’t believe anyone else could have accomplished this.
Here is a campaign video for Fischer: