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GOP Dismisses Bob Kerrey, but Continues to Invest

Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images
Former Sen. Bob Kerrey seems to have gained momentum in his race against state Sen. Deb Fischer for Nebraska’s open Senate seat.

Republicans are dismissing any talk that former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) has found his footing in the Nebraska Senate race, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from redoubling its efforts for state Sen. Deb Fischer (R).

“There is a lot of enthusiasm out there for” Fischer, Nebraska Republican Party Executive Director Jordan McGrain said.

Nebraska Republicans have the advantage in early voting, and investments by the Republican National Committee and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s  campaign in the more Kerrey-friendly, urban 2nd district will also help, McGrain added. 

In contrast to 2008, “the Romney campaign and the RNC have made a tremendous investment in the 2nd district,” McGrain said. “Turnout there is going to be strong for ... Romney; I think that is going to help Deb Fischer in the place where Bob Kerrey is strongest and she is going to kick his tail in the western part of the state.”

Added to the mix is the scheduled Friday appearance of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). McCain, who ran for president in 2008, is set to campaign for Fischer in Omaha, which anchors the 2nd district. In 2008, President Barack Obama won that district, which added one electoral vote to his tally. Nebraska awards its electoral votes district by district.

Adding to the Republican firepower is the GOP-aligned American Crossroads, which this week announced plans to spend $420,000 on the race. 

Kerrey's campaign is seeking to upstage McCain's visit and further feed the narrative that the race is tightening with a high-powered and significant endorsement today. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) will endorse Kerrey at two events this afternoon. Hagel, a moderate who retired in 2008, served with Kerrey in the Senate and both men are Vietnam veterans.

Recent independent polling that showed a tightening race set off the latest turn of events. Over the weekend, the Omaha World-Herald released a poll of 800 registered voters conducted by Wiese Research Associates that showed Kerrey at 46 percent and Fischer at 49 percent. That poll was conducted Oct. 23-25 and had a 3.5-point margin of error.

On Monday, Pharos Research Group released a poll of 761 likely voters showing Kerrey at 47 percent and Fischer at 50 percent. That poll was conducted Oct. 26-28. Fischer’s campaign says its internal polls show her with a double-digit lead, while Kerrey’s campaign says its polling shows a single-digit race.

“Deb Fischer squandered a double-digit lead and her campaign is plummeting as Nebraskans have learned about her attempts to take land from her elderly neighbors and her subsequent abuse of power in the Nebraska Legislature,” Kerrey campaign spokesman Chris Triebsch said. “Polls show the race is a statistical tie and the Fischer campaign has hit the panic button.” 

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