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Bob Kerrey
Bob Kerrey (Union Square Ventures/CC BY 2.0)
Public Policy Polling (pdf). 3/22-25. Nebraska voters. MoE ±3.1% (±4.7% for Republican primary sample). (9/30-10/2 in parentheses):
Bob Kerrey (D): 37
Jon Bruning (R): 54
Undecided: 9

Bob Kerrey (D): 38
Don Stenberg (R): 52
Undecided: 10

Bob Kerrey (D): 38
Deb Fischer (R): 48
Undecided: 14

Jon Bruning (R): 46 (37)
Don Stenberg (R): 18 (16)
Deb Fischer (R): 12 (14)
Pat Flynn (R): 4 (6)
Sharyn Elander (R): 3 (--)
Spencer Zimmerman (R): 0 (--)
Undecided: 18 (27)
For a while after Ben Nelson's retirement decision, conventional wisdom started to form that Democrats would be better off with ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey anyway; after all, Kerrey was popular during his Senatorial days, and he didn't have the stench of the "Cornhusker Kickback" or any of Nelson's other cattle-trading activities on him. Those assumptions, though, didn't have any polling backing them, and now thanks to Public Policy Polling's first look at the race since Kerrey got in, I think we can close the book on that idea.

A couple problems from the Kerrey-as-savior idea are that, a) he's been out of office for 12 years, and even one year is a lifetime in politics; 12 and you might as well have never existed. And b) he's spent most of that intervening time in New York City (part of that as president of the New School), something that Republicans have already been eager to mention in advertising and to litigate, in their court challenges to his residency (which were so bogus that they've already failed, but they got the headlines they wanted). So, long story short, if not a lot of people remember you, and then your first real exposure to them is stories about your awkward decision-making/rollout process and your parachuting in from out-of-state, you're basically starting DOA.

As a result, Kerrey finds himself trailing probable GOP nominee and state AG Jon Bruning by 17 points; he even trails little-known state Sen. Deb Fischer by 10. Ben Nelson, by contrast, was only down 4 to Bruning in PPP's previous Nebraska poll from October. That sample didn't poll Kerrey or any other alternates in head-to-heads, since Nelson was acting like he was running for reelection at that point, but it did take down Kerrey favorables, which at that point were 39/34. Everyone who's learned about Kerrey since then has formed negative impressions, though; now he's at 36/51. (Critically, he's dropped from 47/24 to 36/38 among independents; given the large registration advantage for GOPers here, he needs to have a big advantage among indies to have a shot at this.)

Despite taking some fire on his right from Beltway astroturfers like FreedomWorks, Bruning is dominating the Republican field. He's at 46 to his nearest competitor, state Treasurer (and preferred tea partiers' choice) Don Stenberg, at 18. With Kerrey looking less imposing than Nelson, his primary rivals failing to gain any traction, and his minor scandals of last year fading in the media's rear view mirror (as can be seen in his rising favorables, from 32/38 up to a current 39/35),  Bruning is looking like the betting favorite to succeed Nelson.

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Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Mar 27, 2012 at 10:41 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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