November 21, 2007

Good News For GOP In Nebraska

The Republicans need some good news in the upcoming Congressional races for 2008. Faced with a slew of retirements and a tough numerical disadvantage in the Senate races, the GOP's prospects for gains look bleak, especially in the upper chamber. However, they appear to have firmed up their prospects for a hold in Nebraska, as the expected primary challenge has ended:

Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns (R) has a clear path to the Senate, at least for the time being, after Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) dropped out of the race for retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) seat on Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported that, at a press conference in Omaha, Bruning said he was ending his months-old campaign, which had raised $1 million and threatened Hagel with a primary challenge before the senator announced he would not run again.

Johanns, who entered the race after Hagel’s departure, was seen as the prohibitive frontrunner in the race, while the up-and-coming Bruning was regarded as a potentially strong primary foe. Bruning has instead decided to endorse Johanns.

Nebraska elected George Bush twice by wide margins, and most analysts expect the Republicans to hold Hagel's seat. A contentious primary could have burdened their efforts to keep Nebraska red and to ensure one GOP Senator from the state. At least the national party feels that way about primaries; handled properly, they should do no such thing, but in any case, this comes as welcome news to Republicans at the state and national level.

Of course, in order to be at risk, the Democrats would have to run someone with substantial standing in the state. So far they have not been able to convince anyone to enter the race. Former Senator Bob Kerrey has decided to stay in New York City and run the New School, and Omaha mayor Mike Fahey gave it a pass as well. Right now, they only have a failed Congressional candidate as their candidate, Scott Kleeb -- who lost to a Republican by 10 points for an open seat in a year that favored Democrats.

The GOP has to feel good about Nebraska. It may be the only place where that can be said, but at least they can say it there.


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