Essentially the State of Nebraska is a solid GOP bastion. Even in a solidly Democratic year, the Republicans can win statewide because of their strong GOP registration advantage. As of October 2008, the numbers look like:
Rep: 558,465Dem: 392,943Ind: 195,507with a smattering of other smaller parties.
Nebraska has all Republicans in Statewide elected office, including:
Governor Dave HeinemanLt. Gov. Rick SheehySecretary of State John GaleAuditor Mike FoleyTreasurer Shane OsbornAttorney General John Bruning
We have an all Republican House slate:
CD1 Jeff FortenberryCD2 Lee TerryCD3 Adrian Smith
Our Senators are:Mike Johanns-RBen Nelson-D
I think Ben Nelson is a very conservative Democrat. With a little pressure from the right here in the Cornhusker state, he will vote conservative before liberal. He has a 100% pro-life voting record. He was a Democrat that voted in favor of Bush's tax cuts in 2001 and the Democrat in 2003. I send him emails all the time. He is responsive and cares about representing the voters of the state. I don't think Harry Reid will be able to buffalo him. Especially since the Democratic bench in Nebraska is pretty light. There are three credible Republicans who could challenge him in 2012, and Ben will want to toe the line.
If Ben Nelson does not toe the line or chooses not to run in 2012, Gov. Dave Heineman would be an excellent choice for the Republicans. Here is a man who defeated Tom Osborne in this state's Republican primary. He has the possibility of being the most successful Republican politician in Nebraska since the late Carl Curtis or Roman Hruska. He is a uniter who looks to find results and coalitions that work. I hope we get the chance to promote him to Washington; he is a problem solver and a darn fine governor.
On the other hand, the Republican party has a tendency to eat its young. On more than one occaision, the GOP has found a way to have bitter primary battles that cost conservatives elections. The state's election of Bob Kerrey is testament to that problem. I hope we learn that when we tear our own apart for petty reasons, we cost ourselves the elections. This was true in 2000. Don Stenberg really represents the people of Nebraska, but Ben Nelson beat him because of sour grapes from the Republican primary between Scott Moore and Stenberg. While Nelson is as good a Democrat as one can get, Don Stenberg would have been a giant in the Senate on the Judicial front. We really missed the boat on that one.
Our unicameral legislature, the brainchild of early 20th century progressive George W. Norris, is titularly non-partisan. However there is a considerable Republican bent in the body. However, the Democrats in the Unicameral are more vocal and get a lot of liberal legislation passed. Thank God the voters of Nebraska have the refferendum and petition process. Over the past ten years no legislature in the country has been more out of touch with its citizens than Nebraska's. Which is where the real activism could be beneficial. Each one of the Unicameral members is term-limited, but the Republicans control a solid majority. Most of those Republicans espouse very conservative views. We need to engage in activism at the State Legislative level to keep the Unicameral in line. Conservatives in Nebraska have an opportunity with a Republican governor to reign in spending and make Nebraska a job creator for the nation again.
On the previous point, I have made much of my opposition to Nebraska splitting its electoral vote. I think this is wise from the Republican and conservative point-of-view. The Republicans are the only party with presence in all 93 counties. The Democrats operate on basically a three county strategy. We should counter that process in national elections by forcing the state to go as a whole. My liberal Democratic mother is opposed to this idea, but I don't think Republicans should lose the opportunity to strike at the Democrats, in this reddest of red states.