Nellie Still Nervous

As we hit the home-stretch with your Leavenworth Street Odds, we first give you the Separated at Birth for the Senate race:

Ben Nelson and Mike Dukakis

Pete Ricketts and Kevin Spacey

And now …

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.

8 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nelson couldn’t play the “elder statesman.” He has an opponent with a warchest only limited by his own foolishness egged on by a Senator who’s never forgotten the 1996 campaign.

    If you think the last three months have been about anything other than Chuck Hagel getting back at Nelson for rightfully questioning his business dealings, you’re fooling yourself.

  2. Street Sweeper says:

    It wasn’t Chuck Hagel’s money that was spent…

    And a guy like Nelson shouldn’t still be sending out Cat in the Hat ads and having his campaign staff hauling around sinks filled with dirt.

  3. One Out in the Third says:

    I would say Pete’s SAB comparison is a complete opposite to what Pete stands for…must have been his evil twin.

    Nellie should be nervous…I think Ricketts will carry the Third… it’s up to Omaha and Lincoln.

    Nelson’s record as Governor… recent ranking as 98th worst in the Senate…and weak denial of Pete’s “Behlens-Gate” accusations should launch all kinds of flags for Nebraska voters.

    I was going to give Ben another shot but after looking at the big picture I’m thinking a change will be good.

    GO Adrian!!! GO Pete!!!

  4. mom at home says:

    SS, I just wanted to let you know that I actually know who both of the SAB’s are. I still haven’t looked up the Kleb (we may as well write it like it sounds!) SAB. Maybe it’s better if no one knows who the “cowboy twins” really are.

  5. talking points says:

    Sweeper Congratulations! you did a fairly fair comparison. Nelson did several things right i nthe campaign – among them: definingPete as the ultra-rich candidate buying an election; defining Pete as an ultra-rich candidate with policies that benefit him; defining pete as inexperienced and without the skills a Senator needs.
    Pete took the bait every time. Did you see the Wash Post decalred Pete’s campaign among the ten worst run campaigns in the country?
    Pete let someone else use his checkbook for their agenda. He was a pimp for Hagel’s revenge. Most nebraskans, including those in the Third – know that.
    As far as the 7,000 in Grand Island – my guess is they were voting Pete anyway – though I hear some Democrats got in becuase the GOP had a hard time giving away tickets. Ricketts got ZERO bounce out of the Bush visit – his image does not appear i nthe omaha world herald while Scott Kleeb has two photos.

    Nelson didn’t need to push back hard on Behlen because there was no there there, so to speak. Pete’s mistake was attacking the company by name – thus attacking the workers and their families. I’d bet lunch that was a direct command from LouAnn Linehan – becasue she wanted to damage Tony Raimondo too! Oops.
    You’re right, Nelson wins. And Chuck Hagel might have to get over losing this time better than he got over winning in 1996.
    To “one out in the third” vote for Nelson – at least you will be able to say you were on the winning side.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Attacking hunters and a local manufacturer would be like attacking Osborne during the gov primaries for coaching lawrence Phillips: dont go there! I am disappointed that there was plenty about nelson to show in negative ads, but these missed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sneaky Pete would have done much better if only he would have not used his face in any of the ads. His message (when he’s talking about his plan) sounds fine. But the guy is not an attractive fellow. In addition to having a face for radio, he looks a bit sinister and untrustworthy. With all that money, you’d think he could have fixed his not-so-good looks.

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