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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Nebraska

Johanns Leads Kos Poll

Democrats have gotten so much good news lately, whether it's encouraging poll numbers out of Mississippi, North Carolina or even Kentucky, that their luck was bound to change. While the party once had high hopes for former Senator Chuck Hagel's seat, a new poll conducted for the liberal DailyKos shows Democrats have a mountain to overcome before they can win in Nebraska.

The survey, conducted 5/19-21 by Research 2000, polled 600 likely voters around the state for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Republican Mike Johanns, the former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and Nebraska Governor, and 2006 congressional candidate Scott Kleeb, the Democratic nominee, were tested. Party ID breakdown: 33% Democratic, 47% Republican, 20% independent.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Johanns.....58 / 19 / 86 / 56 / 61 / 55 (-1 from last, 11/14)
Kleeb..........31 / 65 / 7 / 32 / 30 / 32 (+3)

Johanns starts off with a significant name recognition advantage. 61% of likely voters in the state have a favorable impression of their former governor, while 27% view him unfavorably. Kleeb is known by just about half the state; 33% view him favorably while 16% don't care much for him.

The Republican also has more money in the bank. Through the April 23 pre-primary reporting period, Johanns had nearly $1.36 million in the bank while Kleeb kept $243,000 in reserve. Kleeb beat businessman Tony Raimondo by an unexpectedly wide 69%-25% margin in the May 13 primary, while Johanns had little opposition in his own contest.

While national Republicans have had limited success in recruiting top-notch candidates this year, the party convinced Johanns to leave the Cabinet to return home and make a bid, landing what is probably their best candidate of the cycle. Democrats originally tried to recruit former Senator Bob Kerrey, now the president of The New School, a New York university. Kerrey demurred, and Kleeb, who attracted netroots attention in his Congressional race last year, stepped up.

Despite respectable fundraising on Kleeb's part, though, Johanns remains a heavy favorite to keep Hagel's seat in Republican hands.

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.

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.

NE Primary May Shrink

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning looked ready to get out of the race to replace retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Lincoln Journal Star reported late last night. A source close to the campaign told the paper Bruning would drop out sometime next week, paving the way for former Gov. Mike Johanns to cruise to the GOP nomination.

Bruning, who jumped in the race even before Hagel announced his retirement, has praised Johanns in recent days, softening what had been a challenging tone. Bruning addressed a gathering of Republicans on Saturday and focused on his own record as attorney general. In recent weeks, Bruning has focused on differences between himself and Johanns on immigration. Still, Bruning campaign manager Jordan McGrain vehemently denied rumors of a pullout.

Johanns, the heavy favorite both in the primary and the general elections, will get a visit from President Bush next month for an Omaha fundraiser. Johanns served, until earlier this year, as Secretary of Agriculture. Bruning had raised close to a million dollars through the end of September, though he would likely have found himself swamped by Johanns' fundraising ability.

Former Omaha Mayor and Congressman Hal Daub also dropped out of the race last month. On the Democratic side, former Sen. Bob Kerrey took a pass on the race, as did national Democrats' second choice, current Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey. The party has turned its attention to 2006 Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb. But in a year when seemingly everything has gone right for Democrats, Nebraska is one potential opportunity that looks to have slipped away.

Good News For NE GOPers

A new baseline poll, sponsored by DailyKos and conducted by Research 2000, surely has many Democrats wishing that former Sen. Bob Kerrey hadn't turned them down. The poll, conducted 11/12-14, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Former Gov. Mike Johanns and Attorney General Jon Bruning were surveyed on the GOP side, while Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and 2006 Congressional candidate Scott Kleeb were the Democrats tested.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Johanns 59 / 20 / 86 / 58
Kleeb 28 / 62 / 6 / 28

Bruning 55 / 17 / 82 / 52
Kleeb 29 / 63 / 6 / 29

Johanns 57 / 18 / 84 / 54
Fahey 33 / 70 / 8 / 33

Bruning 55 / 17 / 82 / 53
Fahey 34 / 71 / 9 / 34

Fav/Unfav
Johanns 59 / 25
Bruning 48 / 28
Fahey 37 / 17
Kleeb 28 / 9

It looks like Democrats will need to get very lucky if they hope to take retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel's seat.

Kerrey Won't Run In Nebraska

Washington Democrats were handed a setback today when former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey announced he would not run to replace retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican. As Hagel announced he would step down, Kerrey's name was widely circulated as a potential candidate, and he even visited Washington to discuss the race with Senate Democratic leaders.

The move means Democrats will now reach out to second-tier candidates Mike Fahey, mayor of Omaha, and 2006 Congressional Candidate Scott Kleeb. The winner of the Democratic primary will face off against either former Gov. Mike Johanns, who recently resigned as Agriculture Secretary, or Attorney General Jon Bruning, who are running against each other in the GOP race.

Johanns, who remains widely popular in the state, is considered the favorite in both contests.

Senate Fundraising Numbers

Senate numbers trickle in slower than House numbers, as Senate candidates file with their chamber's Sergent at Arms, which then forwards the numbers to the FEC, rather than electronically, as House candidates do. Still, top candidates in important races brag of their success. Here are the numbers we've compiled for our top-ten Senate races to watch, with New Mexico added on for good measure. Results in alphabetical order:

Alaska (Anchorage Daily News)
Ted Stevens (R): $463k raised, ~$1.2m cash on hand

Colorado (Courtesy Rocky Mountain News)
Mark Udall (D) $1.05m raised, $3.1m cash on hand
Bob Schaffer (R): $786k raised, $1.16m cash on hand

Louisiana (Politics Nation reporting)
Mary Landrieu (D): $857k raised, $3.4m cash on hand
(State Treasurer John Kennedy has not yet entered the race)

Maine (Bangor Daily News gets credit)
Susan Collins (R): $1m raised, $3.1m cash on hand
Tom Allen (D): $666k raised, $2.1m cash on hand

Minnesota (Hat tip, Star-Tribune)
Al Franken (D): $1.89m raised, $2.45m cash on hand
Norm Coleman (R): $1.7m raised, $5m cash on hand
Mike Ciresi (D): $307k raised, $607k cash on hand

Nebraska (The Hill article and Politics Nation reporting)
Jon Bruning (R): $225k raised, $1m cash on hand
Bob Kerrey (D): $342k cash on hand
(Note: Kerrey's numbers are left over from his last Senate bid. He has not formally closed his campaign committee, nor has he declared an intent to run in 2008. Former Gov. Mike Johanns launched his campaign last week, after the filing period had closed)

New Hampshire (Thanks, Union Leader)
John Sununu (R): $701k raised, $2.7m cash on hand
Jeanne Shaheen (D): $188k raised, $178k cash on hand
(Note that Shaheen began raising money two weeks before the filing period ended)

New Mexico (Nice work, Las Cruces Sun-News/AP)
Heather Wilson (R): $240k raised, $755k cash on hand
Steve Pearce (R): $251k raised, $582k cash on hand
Don Wiviott (D): $130k raised, $371k cash on hand
(Note: Wilson announced for the seat after the filing deadline had closed. Pearce has not yet announced his plans. Fundraising results are for both of their House committees, all of which they could transfer into a Senate race)

Oregon (Again, The Hill)
Gordon Smith (R): $825k raised, $4m cash on hand
Jeff Merkley (D): ~$300k raised, $200k cash on hand
Steve Novick (D): ~$300k raised, $200k cash on hand

Virginia (Per The Hill and Politics Nation reporting)
Mark Warner (D): $1.1m raised, $1m cash on hand
Tom Davis (R): $220k raised, $1m cash on hand
(Note that Warner began raising money in mid-September, while Davis has not officially entered the race; Davis' fundraising numbers reflect money in his House account that he can transfer to a Senate bid. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore has yet to officially enter the race and has not opened a federal campaign account.)

South Dakota (AP and Sioux City Journal)
Tim Johnson (D): $450k raised, $2m cash on hand
Joel Dykstra (R): $82k raised

Morning Thoughts: Calm Before The Storm

Good Monday morning. Here's what we know: Being number one in the NCAA is a kiss of death. The Boston Red Sox have the most fans, but if the Indians don't beat them, the Rockies will crush them in four straight. And this week is going to be one of the busiest of the year. Washington turns its lonely eyes to these stories today:

-- The Senate returns to Washington to take up the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations measure. They are likely to vote on final passage before the day is out. The House, meanwhile, takes up bills promoting research into postpartum depression and paralysis as well as the Vision Care for Kids Act.

-- President Bush is swinging through the South today. He visits locations in Rogers, Arkansas, before attending a fundraising reception for Tennessee Sen. Lamar (!) Alexander in Memphis. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a noted environmentalist, talks about the importance of national parks at a summit in Austin, Texas, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on foreign travel to the Middle East.

-- As we mentioned, this is a busy week for politics. Today, campaigns must file their actual FEC reports, instead of just leaking numbers, generating a new round of stories on who's up and who's down in the money race. Tomorrow, voters from Lowell to Chelmsford will pick a new representative to take over for ex-Rep. Marty Meehan in a special election that may prove better for Republicans than many think. On Thursday, the House will try to override President Bush's veto of legislation expanding the SCHIP program, though House Democrats admit they are still more than a dozen votes short. And as the Armenian Genocide resolution makes its way to the floor, with Turkey's ambassador firmly planted at home in Ankara rather than in Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Bush has yet to reach out and call her on the issue. The last time the bill moved toward the floor, President Clinton called then-Speaker Dennis Hastert to get the bill pulled just before votes were cast.

-- On Saturday, Louisiana voters take to the polls to pick a new governor. And this weekend, Republican presidential candidates have to be in three places -- Washington, for the Values Voters Summit, San Diego, for the Western States Leadership Conference, and Orlando, for the Presidency IV summit and Fox News debate. Fred Thompson's second debate comes as another round of stories examine his absence on the trail and his commitment to a long and difficult race for president. Scheduled to be in New Hampshire this weekend, the Thompson campaign canceled at the last minute, and his schedule this week is remarkably light. AP's Phil Elliott says New Hampshire voters, at least, are noticing.

-- The Boston Globe, meanwhile, covers Thompson's Social Security plan and the attendant reaction from his fellow Republicans -- or lack thereof. Does the fact that other candidates didn't hit him for proposing cuts in benefits mean they don't consider Thompson a serious threat? Seriously, the Globe notes, the other candidates said next to nothing.

-- Former Sen. John Edwards had a good weekend. The North Carolinian picked up the backing of Friends of the Earth Action, FoE's political arm. Normally, the group would not play a huge role, but they got headlines for making their endorsement just days after former Vice President Al Gore took home the Nobel Prize for his work on global warming. Edwards also won the backing of Iowa's Service Employees Union, which was freed up to make their pick after the national organization couldn't come to an agreement. The Iowa SEIU isn't the largest in the country, but by winning their support, Edwards can import SEIU help from other states, including California, where the union is both strong and backing the former senator.

-- On the Republican side, after taking on former Mayor Rudy Giuliani over taxes and spending, Mitt Romney picked a fight with anyone who wanted one on what it means to be a Republican. Romney, channeling Howard Dean, said he represented the "Republican wing of the Republican Party." John McCain was the first to take up the fight, slamming Romney for backing Paul Tsongas and failing to endorse the Contract with America, The Hill writes. Romney has been unafraid of a fight lately, and while the battle with Giuliani helped drive stories suggesting the race was between the two of them, a battle with McCain could be more dangerous. McCain may be bouncing back, writes South Carolina sage Lee Bandy, and his two-state strategy that includes wins in New Hampshire and the Palmetto State could make him this year's comeback kid. A battle with Romney, the leader in recent New Hampshire polls, is just what McCain needs.

-- Keep an eye on this one: When the House Homeland Security Committee suggested staffers get certain immunizations before visiting the Talladega Superspeedway, in Alabama, and Lowe's Motor Speedway, in North Carolina, Republicans virtually shrieked with glee: Democrats had, they said, suggested that NASCAR Nation was a third-world country. Much as Democrats would like it to, this is not an incident that Republicans will forget any time soon. And as Rep. Robin Hayes faces a repeat challenge from a Democrat he beat by fewer than 500 votes, the Republican who first questioned the committee will certainly try to paint Democrats as out of touch with his constituents who head to the Lowe's track, in his district.

-- Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns officially announced his candidacy for retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel's seat. Johanns joins Attorney General Jon Bruning in the GOP primary, while former Omaha Mayor and Congressman Hal Daub withdrew a few weeks ago. The big question many Democrats would sure like an answer to: After an initial flurry of buzz and interest, where has former Sen. Bob Kerrey gone? Kerrey represents Democrats' best shot at picking up the seat, and if he says no to a return engagement, the party will turn to current Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey or 2006 congressional candidate Scott Kleeb.

-- Today On The Trail: Candidate schedules are light today, like the calm before the storm. Obama is in Madison, Wisconsin, for a rally. Richardson is in Santa Fe, while Clinton hits a luncheon in New York and John Edwards is on the trail in Iowa City. On the GOP side, Fred Thompson addresses the New York Conservative Party's annual dinner, in the city.

Nebraska Race To Get Less Crowded

Former Omaha Mayor and Congressman Hal Daub will end his Senate bid at a press conference in his hometown this morning, just ten days after jumping into the race. The Omaha World-Herald broke the story this morning.

An underdog in the Republican race to replace Senator Chuck Hagel, Daub's exit is a good thing for Cornhusker Republicans. With three major candidates running for the Republican Senate nomination, the GOP nominee would have likely faced a Democrat without a primary.

Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is a heavy favorite in the GOP primary, though Attorney General Jon Bruning remains in the race to put up a fight. Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey is still said to be mulling a bid.

Johanns To Run

The Lincoln Journal Star reports this morning that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns will resign his position and return to Nebraska to run for the seat being vacated by Senator Chuck Hagel. The Journal Star says Johanns and his wife went "house-hunting" in Lincoln over the weekend.

The news, coming as former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) considers a return bid for his old job, will be hugely welcomed by Republicans who, after months of bad news, can claim this as their best recruiting job so far this cycle.

Kerrey has informed New School University trustees that he may resign to make a run at the seat, though no decision is final. Already running are Attorney General Jon Bruning and former Omaha Mayor and Congressman Hal Daub, who announced his candidacy on Monday.

A Kerrey-Johanns matchup could turn out to be one of the best races of the year, as both won election in their home state with ease. The state is heavily Republican, though as we pointed out Monday, Hagel is the only Republican to win a Senate election since 1972.

NE Sen Primary Getting Crowded

The Republican primary to replace Sen. Chuck Hagel will get a little more crowded this morning as former Congressman and former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub announces his plans during a two-day fly-around of the state. Daub will make stops at airports in Scottsbluff, North Platte, Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha today, and Beatrice, Hastings, Kearney, Columbus, Norfolk and South Sioux City tomorrow.

Daub put off his announcement over the weekend because of the death of his mother-in-law.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, also seeking the Republican nomination, has been running for months and raked in an impressive $730,000, outpacing Hagel himself and establishing Bruning as the early frontrunner. Financial analyst Pat Flynn and businessman Tony Raimondo have also declared their candidacies.

Both parties have yet to recruit their top candidates, though rumors that both former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) and former Governor and now-US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (R) will run have been making the rounds. Kerrey, currently the president of the New School in New York, visited Washington last week to check in with DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer, who urged him to run, while Johanns is actively considering the race and reportedly wants to make a bid.

If Kerrey takes a pass on the race, Democrats would turn to Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey or 2006 House nominee Scott Kleeb. Johanns, meanwhile, would clear the field of a few Republican candidates and would begin the primary as the front-runner. Bruning, though, has vowed to stay in the race even in the face of a Johanns candidacy.

Nebraska is a solid Republican state in national elections, and though the state has a history of electing Republican members of the House, Hagel is the only Republican to have won a Senate seat since the late Sen. Carl Curtis, in 1972. Since Curtis' election, Cornhuskers elected Senators James Exon, Edward Zorinsky, Kerrey and Ben Nelson, all Democrats, along with Hagel.