As it is for red states across the country, the theme in the Cornhusker State is the battle between the outsiders and the insiders in the Republican party. In both the Senate and Governor’s races, Nebraskan Republicans hold the decided advantage and therefore conservative issues and rivalries will play an outsized role in choosing who will occupy these offices come 2015. Here’s the situation:
Governor: Incumbent Republican Gov. Dave Heineman is term limited and there’s quite a few people running on the GOP side to replace him. The obvious front-runner is Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning. Of course, he was also the favorite in the 2012 Senate race and he ended up losing the primary to State Senator and now US Senator Deb Fischer (R). An opponent who could pull off a similar upset is former TD Ameritrade COO Pete Ricketts, who has support from outside GOP heavyweights like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. While there are a few other candidates running (most notably Auditor Mike Foley), it seems like Ricketts has established himself as the anti-establishment candidate. And though polls currently show Bruning in the lead, it is likely that Ricketts will gain ground as he racks up conservative endorsements. As for the Democrats, they’re stuck with Chuck Hassebrook, the executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs and a former University of Nebraska Regent. Given the state and the political climate, it would really take an idiot for the Republicans to loose this governorship, so this race is Safe Republican.
Senate: Senator Mike Johanns (R) is retiring and there are four GOPers vying for the opportunity to succeed him. The main candidates are former Nebraska Treasurer Shane Osborn, Midland University President Ben Sasse, Pinnacle Bank President Sid Dinsdale, and attorney Bart McLeay. Right now, it looks like a two man race between Osborn, the establishment candidate, and Sasse, the grassroots favorite. Polls currently show Osborn with a decent lead but Sasse has been gaining ground over the past few months and he has won key endorsements from Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, radio host Mark Levin, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks. Meanwhile, Osborn has been shoring up his in-state support and he has received endorsements from many state senators and as well as conservative activists like Steve Forbes and Phyllis Schlafy. Meanwhile, the Democrats are stuck with a few no-names and it doesn’t appear that they are making a serious effort to take this seat. So regardless of who wins the GOP primary, this race is Safe Republican.