Nebraska Gov: Will a Titan Be Rebuffed?
When Rep. Tom Osborne announced almost a year ago that he would challenge Gov. Dave Heineman in Nebraska's May 9 Republican primary, most political observers -- The Fix included -- assumed the legendary coach of the University of Nebraska football team would roll to a win.
In fact, Senate Republicans repeatedly courted Heineman to drop out of the governor's race in favor of challenging Sen. Ben Nelson (D). He refused, reiterating his commitment to winning a full term as governor (he took over in January 2005 when then Gov. Mike Johanns was named Secretary of Agriculture by President Bush). In conversations with a variety of Republican politicos at the time, none gave Heineman a chance against Osborne, calling his bid a political kamikaze mission.
As the old cliché goes, a year is an eternity in politics. One year after he was left for dead politically, Heineman appears to have moved into a dead heat with Osborne 15 days before the primary.
A poll conducted earlier this month by Jan van Lohuizen for former Ameritrade executive Pete Ricketts (R), who is running for the Senate nomination, showed Osborne with a 44 percent to 43 percent lead over Heineman; financial adviser Dave Nabity took just six percent. Osborne's lead was well within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.
How has Heineman closed the gap?
Sources familiar with Heineman's strategy say a decision was made that attacking Osborne, who truly enjoys legendary status in the state, was a non-starter. So the only way to win was for Heineman to focus on accomplishing things for the state in the time he was given. If Heineman could pile up enough good news for the state, a GOP strategist argued, it would raise the question in voters' minds as to why a change needed to be made. The tagline of Heineman's television ads -- "Experience. Results. Nebraska Common Sense" -- seeks to drive that idea home.
"Nebraskans tend to reward good work," said Ashley Cradduck, deputy communications director for the governor.
Vicki Powell, campaign manager for Osborne, said the race has tightened because Heineman has been in the papers everyday "cutting ribbons and kissing babies." But with the Nebraska legislature now out of session and with Osborne now running television advertisements (he gave Heineman a month-long headstart), Powell believes Osborne will pull out a victory.
The amazing thing is that Heineman has made up considerable ground without running a single negative television or radio advertisement against Osborne. Although Heineman has talked about runaway federal spending, Cradduck said, "He has always said Tom Osborne has done good things for the state of Nebraska," she added.
Osborne has not even mentioned Heineman by name in his own advertising, choosing instead to focus on his experience in Washington and his fiscal conservatism. Osborne is better stocked heading into the race's final weeks, ending March with $833,000 on hand compared to $588,000 for the governor.
The entirely positive focus of the campaign could mean that Osborne loses the primary to Heineman even though his favorable ratings remain in the stratosphere. Under that line of thinking, voters love Osborne and his time both as coach of the Cornhuskers and in Congress but simply don't see him in the role of chief executive.
Osborne also may be hampered by the lack of competitiveness in his past races; he won his congressional seat in 2000 with 71 percent in the primary and 82 percent in the general election; in 2002 and 2004 he was reelected with 93 percent and 87 percent, respectively.
Sutton discounted that theory, arguing that although Osborne hasn't had any close races in Congress, he has "been in a lot of close calls in his former job and knows what that's like." She added the obvious: Osborne, the man who led the Cornhuskers to three national football championships, is a "very competitive individual."
Even if the primary turns nasty in its final days, it shouldn't jeopardize the Republican hold on the state's governor's mansion. President Bush won Nebraska by 33 points in 2004, and Democrats have a weak field -- to say the least. One of their potential candidates, truck driver Glenn Boot Jr., looks likely to be disqualified from the primary ballot due to a felony conviction in 1980 for distributing Quaaludes.
Posted by: apartments in warsaw | September 18, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lincolnite | May 12, 2006 8:31 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: I've met Kleeb | May 7, 2006 1:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Nebraska transplant | April 26, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Radical Centrist | April 26, 2006 9:03 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Sandy | April 26, 2006 12:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rob Millette | April 25, 2006 6:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LonestarJR | April 25, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rob Millette | April 25, 2006 5:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Husker in Virginia | April 25, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Joachim Kappert | April 25, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: to RMill | April 25, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rob Millette | April 25, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ExNebraskaNative | April 25, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Leavenworth Street | April 25, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RMill | April 25, 2006 1:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Andy R | April 25, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: afterfurtherreview | April 25, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BGF - Rural NE | April 25, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bad Husker | April 25, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: RMill | April 25, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LonestarJR | April 25, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: thv | April 25, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Augie | April 25, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: It'sDifferentInNebraska | April 25, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | April 25, 2006 9:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: SoonerThought | April 25, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.