Former Sen. Bob Kerrey seems to have gained momentum in his race against state Sen. Deb Fischer for Nebraska’s open Senate seat.
Republicans argued that previous Omaha World-Herald polls have overstated Democrats’ chances.
The same day the paper’s poll was released, Fischer campaign manager Aaron Trost issued a memo detailing five instances when the paper was off the mark.
“I believe the survey they released today is similar to these past examples; I expect Senator Fischer to win on Election Day by double digits,” Trost said in the memo.
The Fischer camp also attempted to cast doubt on Kerrey pollster Harrison Hickman, repeating media reports that he issued polls to make former Sen. John Edwards seem more viable in the waning days of his bid to become the 2008 Democratic nominee for president.
“Bob Kerrey released numbers from the very same disgraced pollster who recently admitted under oath that he cherry-picked numbers to boost John Edwards’ struggling presidential campaign. It’s déjà vu all over again,” Fischer campaign spokesman Daniel Keylin wrote in an email last month.
“This poll is a complete work of fiction that contradicts every public poll,” Keylin said of Kerrey’s internal poll showing a single-digit lead for Fischer.
Kevin Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln agreed that the election is Fischer’s to lose but said he was surprised with how close the race appears to be in a “rock solid red state.”
“Everybody expected the race to narrow because that is the nature of these elections, but if the Omaha World-Herald poll is accurate and Kerrey is within three points, I am a little taken aback by that,” Smith said.
Despite Fischer’s allegations about the accuracy of the Omaha World-Herald poll, he said that it does appear that the race has tightened, which he attributes to negative ads that Kerrey has been running attacking Fischer’s character.
“Kerrey has been running a series of pretty hard-hitting ads over the past few weeks and I don’t think it’s outside the bounds of reality to suggest that those ads have had an impact and swung some independents, and that the race is genuinely narrowing,” Smith said.
One ad shows three of Fischer’s neighbors telling how the Fischers sought to acquire the land of Les and Betty Kime and ultimately sued for it, but lost in court. Both families were ranchers and the land was valuable for cattle grazing because it provided access to the Snake River, according to the ad.
The Kimes, an elderly couple, accrued $40,000 in legal costs, the ad continued.
“What the Fischers did to the Kimes just isn’t right,” one neighbor in the ad said.
The Fischer camp held a press conference last month with Republican Gov. David Heineman to call the ad unfounded and said it was a last-ditch effort by Kerrey to make up ground.
Nevertheless, Kerrey remains undaunted and continues to rack up endorsements, including from former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, the bipartisan leaders of Obama’s deficit reduction commission. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent $2.2 million since Kerrey got in the race, a DSCC spokesman said.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated online to reflect former Sen. Chuck Hagel's endorsement of Bob Kerrey, a development that occurred after the print publication deadline.