Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The unimportance of Nebraska

Former Nebraska governor Mike Johanns announced Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2014. He will have served one term as Senator.

Nebraska is a very red state and more than likely whoever wins the Republican primary for the Senate will be the next Senator.

There has been some speculation as to who would run in 2014. The early favorite is governor Dave Heineman who can no longer be governor after 2014. Heineman’s approval ratings have consistently been in the 60s and even in the 70s. If he decides to run, he will most likely be elected in a landslide.
Democrats in Nebraska are not very deep and are not very prepared for an election like this. 

In 2012, former governor Bob Kerrey ran against Deb Fischer and was soundly defeated. There is a chance that he might run again in 2014. Scott Kleeb is a possibility for both the Senate seat and the gubernatorial election if it comes to that. The other possibilities would be Jon Ewing who lost against incumbent congressman Lee Terry. Tom White, the pro-life Democrat who lost to Lee Terry. Or a favorite among the younger crowd could have Jim Esch running, if he decided to get back into running for office.

The real problem for Democrats in Nebraska with Johanns announcement is that the bench is fairly deep for Republicans. If Heineman decides to run for Senate, then Attorney General Jon Bruning could run for governor. Or State Treasurer Don Sternberg. For those who didn’t like Bruning in 2012, the scandal with
the lieutenant governor opens up a possibility for him.

So in 2014, there will be two races that Democrats are highly unlikely to win. It seems likely that the Democratic National Committee will, again, not focus, on Nebraska and dedicate money and resources to races where they might be able to make a difference. While we wait to see what Governor Heineman does, the Democratic party of Nebraska might want to start working on getting younger candidates ready for lower posts to succeed in the coming years, in case the Republican bench falters.
The seat is very safely in Republican hands, regardless. But this safety will make the Senate race less expensive than the 2012 one where Kerrey and Fischer squared off. The Republican National Committee and outside spending will likely not target this race as an important one for Senate control, so there’s that.

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