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Nebraska

Outlook: Likely Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Sen. Ben Nelson (D) won reelection over Pete Ricketts (R) with 64% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D) will win reelection over Pete Ricketts (R). What started out as a rickety effort to unseat Nelson never really started rolling (sorry Pete, we couldn’t resist), and Nelson will win a second term. The question is: will Nelson win by large enough margins in his native western Nebraska to sweep long-shot candidate Scott Kleeb into Tom Osborne’s open seat? Nelson lost the region in a close race in 2000; we will be interested to see if Kleeb actually outperforms Nelson in those lonely prairie counties.

August 2, 2006 Update:

Every indication that we have from Nebraska is that Democratic Senator Ben Nelson continues to lead Pete Ricketts. Nothing has changed in the underlying factors about Republican Nebraska, however, so the Cornhusker State continues to have our attention, but Ricketts needs some breaks to overcome Nelson’s advantages.

June 1, 2006 Update:

This one could turn out to be surprisingly close, with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel strongly pushing GOP nominee Pete Ricketts against Hagel’s nemesis Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (whom he defeated for his senate seat in 1996). Nelson says that he, Nelson, got over losing, but Hagel never got over winning. Whatever the truth of that, Nebraska is deeply Republican and Governor Dave Heineman will be reelected in a landslide. However, we are still placing a small bet on Nelson. Most of our Nebraska contacts believe that Hagel may be overplaying his hand, and Nelson is still relatively popular–for a Democrat–in the Cornhusker State.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson got a big endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and in Republican Nebraska this will help. We still believe that this one cannot put away early, given the heavy GOP advantage in the Cornhusker State. But Nelson is making all the right moves and Republican Senate analysts must be crying in their beer that President George W. Bush insisted on picking Governor Mike Johanns for the Secretary of Agriculture post.


Background

Here is a state President George W. Bush won with 65 percent of the vote in 2004. It is as Republican as almost any other state. And to top it off, the Democratic incumbent, Senator Ben Nelson, was elected against a weak opponent in 2000 with a mere 51 percent. A top target, right? Nelson ought to be, but President Bush stole away the likely GOP Senate nominee and winner, Governor Mike Johanns to be Secretary of Agriculture in January 2005. Since then, the Nebraska GOP has not been able to get its act together and convince any of several powerful pols to run.

This may be changing with the entry of former state Republican Party Chairman David Kramer, who, while an underdog to Nelson, might just be able to pull off an upset. Republicans are even more excited about the decision of former Ameritrade COO Pete Ricketts to run, since he is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars–if not millions–of his own money. The only other Republican candidate is ex-state Attorney General Don Stenberg (the 2000 GOP Senate loser).

Again, Nelson has become a favorite for reelection, but after his weak performance six years ago, no sensible analyst would automatically write off any decent GOP nominee in this most Republican of states.

Candidates

Ben Nelson (I) – Democrat – Second Quarter Raised: $1,103,440 | Cash on Hand: $2,118,843
Website

Pete Ricketts – Republican – Second Quarter Raised: $2,984,930 | Cash on Hand: $1,066,193
Website