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36 Days to Election Day: Nebraska

When Ben Nelson announced that he was not running for reelection to the Senate from Nebraska, Republican eyes lit up. If ever there was a seat ripe for the taking, this was it. Nebraska is a decidedly red, conservative state. For his part, Nelson had drawn the ire of the Democratic Party on many occasions since he often sided with the GOP on many issues. But what sunk his chances of reelection was his shenanigans during the Obamacare debate. In what appeared to be a compromise of his pro-life credentials and principles, Reid and company essentially granted the state concessions- the so-called Cornhusker Kickback- rendering Nelson a shrill politician in the eyes of Nebraskans.

It was not as if the Democratic Party was unaware of Nelson’s intentions to retire and at first it appeared as if they had simply conceded the seat. For the Republicans, three candidates emerged: state attorney general Jon Bruning, state senator Deb Fischer, and state treasurer Don Stenberg. In a wild primary, both Stenberg and Bruning attacked each other over personal finances. Outside spending was heavy, especially attack ads directed at Bruning. Bruning, in fact, was the early leader and GOP establishment pick. Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth had thrown their backing to Stenberg. Sarah Palin had endorsed Fischer. In the end, most likely due to the battle between Stenberg and Bruning, Fischer surged to the lead and won the primary.

This is her first run for statewide office. It is at this point that the Democrats hopes jumped, feeling that Fischer is the weakest of the three candidates, especially against their man- Bob Kerrey. Kerrey is a former popular Governor and Senator who barely established residency in the state after moving back to run for office. However, every poll after the primary indicates that the glow has rubbed off Kerrey and Fischer should win this race. Practically every poll puts Fischer up by two digit leads.

Nebraska has three Congressmen, all Republican. When the dust settles after Election Day, it would appear that the three incumbents will be returned to the House. None of them- Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry, or Adrian Smith- are considered remotely vulnerable.

In terms of presidential politics, Nebraska is one of two states (Maine is the other) who allocates electoral votes by congressional district. In 2008, Obama managed to win one electoral vote out of Nebraska. It would be a very uphill climb to replicate that feat in 2012. Hence, I would give Romney all 5 electoral votes from Nebraska.

Nebraska has four questions on the ballot. The first would make it possible to impeach any civil officer of the state who commits a misdemeanor in pursuit of office. The current law allows for impeachment for crimes committed while IN office. In short, they are holding their political candidates to a higher standard. One can see the possible problems with this, especially if there is a violation of a campaign finance law technicality. As in other states and for the same reasons, Nebraska voters will decide on a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to hunt, fish and trap. Unlike other states, opponents have proposed another constitutional amendment guaranteeing, among other things, the right to nap, sleep, drive and watch Husker football.

A third question asks voters to approve a legislative pay raise from $12,000 a year to $32,000 a year. This would cost the state $980,000 a year. A similar measure to raise their salary to $22,000 failed in 2010 to make the ballot due to technicalities in getting the question approved. Nebraska is the only state with a unicameral legislature and all elections for that legislature are non-partisan, although candidates can state a party preference. When one thinks about it, $12,000 seems particularly low for a legislative salary and the only question is whether Nebraska voters think $32,000 is too high. By the way, the legislative term lasts 90 days in odd number years and 60 days in even number years, so the positions are essentially part time.

The final question would increase term limits from two to three consecutive terms. Proponents argue that the first term is essentially a learning experience and that with three terms, constituents will benefit in that the legislators will be more experienced. Regarding term limits in general, this writer has always taken the position that term limits currently exist and it is called the ballot and voting out the bums if necessary. But, obviously incumbency has its advantages although the changing political fundraising landscape is weakening that.

In conclusion: Romney takes all five electoral votes while Republican Deb Fischer is elected to the Senate and all three GOP Congressmen are returned to the House.

Running totals thus far: Obama leads Romney 108-36 in the elctoral vote count while Republicans lead in the Senate 16-14 seats. In the House, Democrats still lead 65-49.

Next: Oklahoma

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