You are likely to see some national media outlets who are quick to paint Fischer as some sort of upstart tea partier who toppled the GOP establishment candidate in Jon Bruning. Should you see that conventional wisdom, note that it is wrong on both counts.
First, Bruning is not and was not the Nebraska GOP establishment candidate. He received no endorsements from the elected delegation, not even a subtle pat on the back. The National Republican Senatorial Committee did not offer even tacit support. In fact the national party leaders did not even want Jon Bruning. The real establishment candidate was Governor Dave Heineman, who chose not to run.
Bruning was and is a hard worker, and great fund raiser who had made it clear that he was going to jump into the Senate race. As the last man standing after Heineman and Fortenberry and Terry and a number of other names passed, Bruning assumed the front-runner nod. But just because he was the front-runner, did not mean he was “establishment” in the Dick Lugar sense.
And Fischer is no upstart Tea Partier. In fact, she is arguably more moderate than the other candidates in the race, and certainly was not out trying to stir the pot just for stirring’s sake.
How she won? A lot of luck and good timing. But just like Ben Hogan said, “Golf is a game of luck. The more I practice the luckier I get.”
Many people were clearly uncomfortable with the prospect of a Jon Bruning nomination — and outright fatigued by the prospect of a Don Stenberg nomination. The sheer number of late undecided showed that. In the mean time, many Republicans were sort of sticking with guy who had the most money and seemed to be the winner.
But without Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth, no one would have been able to drive up Bruning’s negatives. Fischer certainly could not have done that on her own. (But while DeMint wants to take some sort of credit for defeating Bruning, DeMint was never in it to just defeat Bruning. He was in it to be the King-Maker. He absolutely picked the wrong guy in Stenberg, and may just be hoping that he can pull Fischer to his side at this point. Don’t count it likely.)
But we all watched that final week by the Fischer camp, and campaign manager Aaron Trost.
There was the initial Fischer poll — at a time while we and others were asking why they were spending money on a poll, when they couldn’t do TV!
But someone must have suggested that before anyone would endorse, the campaign needed to show that they had a chance to win.
So Kay Orr masterfully pulled the Sarah Palin card out her sleeve and the momentum really picked up.
Jeff Fortenberry, sensing the GOP discontent took a bold stand and endorsed Fischer giving her needed credibility — and a display that a state party leader was willing to take a big risk on Fischer. If he could, so could you.
And then the final question was, Well the endorsements are all well and good, but can she get on TV? Enter Joe Ricketts. Knowing Stenberg was doomed, he poured cash in to help Fischer out and just pounded Bruning with a devastating ad.
Nebraska GOP voters? The undecideds were watching and in some ways hoping for a breakthrough.
And they got it.
More polls trending toward Fischer, and the momentum never stopped.
Oh, and we will tell you right now, that of the three, Deb Fischer is the one the Kerrey camp has feared the most. (There have been Democrat operatives literally skipping around with a plan to take down Bruning and enshrine Bob Kerrey. They may have been wrong in the end, but that was absolutely the CW in DC and beyond.)
Deb will still have work ahead of her. She will have to be much more diligent about raising money, though that should also come a bit easier. And she will have to be a quick study on some of the international issues that may come up. But she is not going to be seen as some ultra-partisan who Kerrey thought he was running against. And oh my, but Bob Kerrey has a Congressional voting record to look back at.
But Nebraska Republicans picked a game changer.
Get used to the idea of Senator Deb Fischer. (And that’s “Senator” without the “state” in front of it.)