Sabato's Crystal Ball

Nebraska Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Nebraska (02)

Outlook: Leans Republican


Background

It’s deja vu in this part of the Cornhusker State. Incumbent Rep. Lee Terry, son of prominent TV anchor Lee Terry, Sr., is running for his sixth term against Democratic opponent Jim Esch in a repeat of the 2006 race. Terry won their last encounter healthily by 10 percent (55-45), outspending his opponent $998,578 to $420,010.

On the one hand, there is reason to expect the district to stay Red. Latest polls indicate Terry is up by a similar 10 percent margin (49-39), while President George W. Bush won the district handily by an average of 20 percent in 2004 and 2006.

But Terry’s margin of victory in 2006 declined relative to his previous ones partly because of the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, which could continue to influence the outcome of this race. Terry has also acknowledged the fact that Esch is running a more coordinated and grassroots-based campaign than in 2006. It can’t hurt Esch that his pockets are also better lined this time. Although Terry has almost twice as much cash on hand, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has added the district to its ‘Red to Blue’ list and chipped in $435,000 into for against Terry in early October. Esch also found more momentum in late September as Barack Obama began to make inroads into the state.

All this was enough for Terry to ask the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) for some assistance, which they reportedly denied. Whether they will regret it is yet to be seen. But this race seems to heating up enough to make even a five-term incumbent sweat.

Candidates

Lee Terry (I) – Republican – current Congressman
Website

Jim Esch – Democrat – 2006 candidate
Website