Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nebraska Governor Race

Race of the Day

September 2, 2006
66 Days Until Election Day

Nebraska Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (or as Cornhusker fans would say "Big Red") -(Midwest)

Outlook: Safe Republican

After a highly anticipated Republican primary in Nebraska, the general election for Governor is a major anti-climax.

Incumbent Republican Dave Heineman is seeking his first full term after becoming Governor last year when his predecessor became the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. At that time, Congressman Tom Osborne, the legendary former coach of the University of Nebraska football team was in the open office race and was considered a virtual lock to become Nebraska’s next Governor. Many considered Heineman to be nothing more than an interim Governor and hoped he would use the temporary promotion to the party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate against a potentially vulnerable Democrat incumbent in this very Republican state. Heineman and Osborne both decided though that they would rather be the top dog in Lincoln than one of 100 in Washington, D.C. and the primary, which would also include a third candidate, was set.

As he went about serving as Governor, Heineman was the beneficiary of high job approval ratings, which these days have him among the most popular Governors in America. In spite of astronomical job approval, Heineman was still considered the underdog in the primary to Osborne but little by little, the race got closer, until it entered the homestretch in a virtual dead heat between the two candidates.

When all was said and done, Heineman completed the task of surprising the political world in Nebraska by winning a narrow victory in the GOP primary. It appears that Heineman just ran a smarter campaign than his main opponent, and did so by running to the Coach’s right, especially on the contentious issue within Nebraska of illegal immigration. Ironically, Heineman owed his victory to strong showings in the state’s rural, less populated counties, which happened to be part of the Congressional district which Osborne represented. Nebraska Republican voters decided that as much as they honored Osborne’s athletic and relatively short political career, they had no reason to turn out a very popular incumbent Governor, who also happened to be considered somewhat more conservative.

After winning such an impressive victory, Heineman now faces Democrat nominee David Hahn, a publishing executive and attorney. Hahn appears to be a credible candidate on paper, but he will go down to defeat by an extremely lopsided margin this November. The Democrat, who struggled to find a running mate willing to run with him, trails Heineman by an astonishing 53 points in a recent poll. Based on those numbers, it is very feasible that Hahn will fail to even achieve a quarter of the vote on Election Day.

Nebraska Democrats may be feeling good about their opportunity to keep a Senate seat, but in the race for Governor, the incumbent, who was once considered to be living on borrowed political time, is likely to win the largest Gubernatorial landslide of any race this election year.

Heineman campaign link:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 5 D, 15 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 13 D, 21 R