Ben Nelson (D) and Pete Ricketts (R)
Odds to win the U.S. Senate race
Nelson – 1:5
Ricketts – 4:1
Over/Under for Nelson: 55%
Odds Nelson goes over 60% — 8:1
And Leavenworth Street’s analysis.
The game plan for Pete Ricketts was simple on paper:
Get Republicans to vote Republican.
In his uber-red state that Bush carried by 30+ points and carried every county, the math didn’t look that hard. But add Ben Nelson (DINO) to the equation, and a whole host of variables complicated things:
Nelson, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, effectively staked out conservative positions on judicial nominees, immigration and national security. Ricketts had little room to attack from the right.
And Nelson went on the offensive the DAY AFTER the primary, with his “Wall Street Pete” tag. So while there was a perception that Ricketts went too negative too early, one could say that Ricketts was on his heels the whole time. Also, conventional campaign wisdom says you attack only after you’ve built a record of credibility. Ricketts may not have established himself enough in the early going in order for critical attacks to work.
In the primary, Ricketts was painted as a silver-spooned Omaha kid trying to buy the election. After the primary, Nelson kept up that barrage and Ricketts has not been able to bring himself out of that light.
In the battle on TV, Ricketts latest ads, with the giant letters, talking to the camera, have been effective, and his negative ads have undoubtedly driven Nelson’s negatives up.
Still, while many have written this race off , two recent developments may help Ricketts close the gap slightly:
1 – Kerry gaffe. While Kerry did not campaign in Nebraska, and is no where near Nelson politically, Kerry’s elitist jab at the military reminded everyone who the Democrats are. And like it or not, Ben Nelson is a member of Kerry’s party.
2 – The President’s visit. A raucous crowd of 7,000 watched President Bush deliver fiery remarks. This should stir up the base right before the election. Of note, Nelson and Scott Kleeb meekly stated that it’s good for the state for the POTUS to visit. What else can they say? The President’s visit was clearly an upshot for GOP candidates.
Will this be enough for Ricketts? Probably not. But the fact that Nelson keeps pounding away at Ricketts, instead of playing the elder statesman, means Nellie isn’t comfortable just yet. Nelson has the odds in this one, but not as high as many Dems think or hope.