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Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (ApollyonMD/CC BY-SA 3.0)
Three states are holding primaries today: Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon. Here's a look at the key races in each of them, in order of poll closing times:

NE-Sen (R): Out of nowhere, it seems, the Nebraska GOP Senate primary became a competitive race at the very last possible moment. State AG Jon Bruning had been the front-runner from day one, though right-wing meddlers like Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth did their best to boost Treasurer Don Stenberg. A few polls a while back suggested Stenberg might be gaining on Bruning, but he never came close to sealing the deal and it looked like Bruning would cruise to the nomination.

Then, a very strange thing happened with barely two weeks left to go: The race's third wheel, state Sen. Deb Fischer, started picking up steam, judging by a final spate of polls. Fischer's fundraising had been extremely weak, and she was also caught between two poles: the establishment, which was backing Bruning, and the tea party types, who had rallied around Stenberg. But after a long campaign season of Stenberg and Bruning bashing each other over the head, Fischer had the chance to sneak through, in a move reminiscent of Creigh Deeds' unexpected surge in the 2009 Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia.

Indeed, that's the very analogy PPP's Tom Jensen also relies on in characterizing this race; PPP conducted a last-minute poll which confirms Fischer's rise, finding her at 37 with Bruning close behind at 33 and Stenberg off the radar at 17. While this out-of-nowhere race could still go either way, Fischer has all the momentum and appears to be on the verge of a major upset.

Head below the fold for the rest of our writeups.

NE-02 (R & D): GOP Rep. Lee Terry is once again feeling a double squeeze: Because Nebraska allows its electoral votes to get split, he's at risk of getting steamrolled by Barack Obama's desire to win the Omaha-area's lone EV—something that almost happened in 2008, when Terry eked out a win with just 52 percent of the vote. That means he has to continually look out for his left flank (four years ago, he tried to tout support from mythical "Obama-Terry voters"), which puts him at risk of getting teabagged to death in the GOP primary. That's unlikely to happen this year, especially since the field is split between several Some Dude-ish opponents who have raised either nothing or next to nothing, but it'll be worth keeping an eye on Terry's final vote share.

Meanwhile, two Democrats are vying to take on Terry in November (and hopefully ride the Obama wave to victory): Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing and state Sen. Gwen Howard. Ewing's raised far more money than Howard, about $190K to $44K. He's also been elected county-wide (NE-02 is mostly coterminous with Douglas), whereas Howard's district is much smaller. There hasn't been any public polling, though, so it could be anyone's race.

ID-02 (R): It's hard to imagine veteran GOP Rep. Mike Simpson falling in a Republican primary, especially against the likes of his sole opponent, retired HVAC contractor Marvin "Chick" Heileson, but Simpson's margin may still be worth watching. In 2010, Simpson held back the underfunded Heileson (who, notably, accused Simpson on the campaign trail of "reading the Constitution of the Soviets") by a relatively weak 58 percent-24 percent margin. This time, Simpson's allies at the American Dental Association are spending cash to make sure a surprise upset doesn't happen, despite the fact that Heileson hasn't even filed a fundraising report with the FEC. Heileson is running as a teabagger's teabagger, advocating for (among other things) the elimination of Social Security. (James L)

Oregon: Oregon's primary election is also on Tuesday, but there's nothing of note in any federal race, unless you're counting the amusing challenge to Peter DeFazio in the OR-04 Democratic primary. DeFazio's being challenged by Matthew Robinson, the 24-year-old son of Art Robinson, who'll be his Republican opponent in November (and who lost to DeFazio in 2010). This is no tragicomic Powers vs. Powers-style family dustup, though; Robinson's goal appears to be softening up DeFazio for his dad, though since he hasn't raised any money for his bid, there's not much softening going on.

Instead, Oregon's main event is probably the primary in the nonpartisan Portland mayoral race, open thanks to Sam Adams' retirement. City Councilor Charlie Hales and state Rep. Jefferson Smith look poised to advance to November, leaving out businesswoman Eileen Brady, whose Portlandia-themed ad will still be remembered as one of the cycle's cutest and/or most opportunistic.

In terms of state government, the biggest race may be the Democratic primary for attorney general, which is for all the marbles since the Republicans failed to produce any candidate at all (remarkable, since it's an open seat). Former state appellate judge Ellen Rosenblum leads former interim US Attorney Dwight Holton for the nod. There's also a state House primary in the suburban HD-48 that's generated an inordinate amount of heat and light, where netroots and labor-backed Jeff Reardon is taking on state Rep. Mike Schaufler, a conservaDem who holds the balance of power in a chamber that's currently split 30-30 between the parties. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue May 15, 2012 at 09:52 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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