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« Dems Have $28M Advantage | Blog Home Page | Previewing Ohio Primaries »

Netroots Star To Make NE Bid

After coming close to stealing a congressional seat in Nebraska in 2006, rancher Scott Kleeb, a Democrat, is making another bid to get Nebraska voters to send him to Washington. This time, though, his bid may be an even longer shot.

Kleeb looks likely to jump into the race to succeed retiring Republican Senator Chuck Hagel by Monday, sources tell the Lincoln Journal Star, setting up a primary with businessman and former Republican Tony Raimondo. The winner of the Democratic primary, to be held on May 13, will face former Governor and former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

Johanns, who won statewide elections by wide margins, benefited from fundraising help from President Bush soon after announcing his campaign. After serving in the cabinet, he returns home to one of the most heavily Republican states in the country -- President Bush won by a two-to-one margin here in 2004. In just a few months on the trail, Johanns raked in a whopping $1.38 million through December, banking just over $1 million.

Kleeb came within ten points of beating now-Rep. Adrian Smith in a district that voted three-to-one for Bush that year. Kleeb raised more than $1 million last cycle, and he benefited from support in the lefty blogosphere. If Democrats have any chance of pulling off what would amount to the upset of the (admittedly young) century, Kleeb will need support from the entire party to build a campaign treasury to rival Johanns'.

Still, Kleeb, or Raimondo, will remain a heavy underdog to the well-known, well-funded Republican after the May primary. It's not impossible for a Democrat to win a state-wide election in Nebraska -- Senator Ben Nelson is serving his second term, and has offered praise for both possible Democrats -- but in a presidential election year, it will be exceedingly difficult.