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« Strategy Memo: Two Wounded Parties | Blog Home Page | Indecisive Oregonians »

Kleeb, Johanns Match Set

In a surprisingly easy victory, 2006 congressional candidate Scott Kleeb captured the Democratic nomination to replace retiring Senator Chuck Hagel over industrialist and former Republican Tony Raimondo. Kleeb, who lost to Republican freshman Adrian Smith by a 55%-45% margin in 2006, beat Raimondo last night by a wide 69%-25% margin. Two other candidates captured a total of 3% of the vote.

Kleeb will face a steep uphill climb in a GOP-leaning state as Republicans turned to former Governor Mike Johanns, who won his primary with 78% of the vote. Johanns left the governor's mansion to take over the U.S. Department of Agriculture, before leaving late last year to return to Nebraska and seek to fill Hagel's seat. He's raised a lot of money and is well-liked around the state, giving Republicans at least one reason to be confident about an open Senate seat.

Through April 23, Johanns had raised $2.16 million and retained $1.35 million for later. Kleeb had pulled in $399,000 and still had $243,000 left over. Johanns will also likely benefit from big turnout for GOP nominee John McCain; President Bush won the state by twenty-nine points over Al Gore in 2000 and by thirty-three points over John Kerry in 2004. Kleeb is a magnetic personality and, by all accounts, a talented politician, but Johanns may just prove to be too much.

The state also held its presidential primary, allocating delegates to John McCain, who won by an 87% to 13% margin over Texas Rep. Ron Paul. On the Democratic side, no delegates were at stake; they had all been allocated at the February 9 caucuses, and by a two-to-one margin went for Barack Obama.

In the state's primary, though, Obama beat Clinton by just 2,600 votes, outpacing her 49%-47%. Similar discrepancies between Obama's overperformance in caucuses versus Clinton's much better showings in primaries has happened in other states as well, including Washington State. There, Obama won two out of every three delegates in the state, though ten days later, he won by a narrower 51% to 46% margin in the primary.