Sleeper Senate race in Nebraska could benefit Democrats

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed his fear that the Senate is in play in this year’s mid-term elections. Although Democrats are defending 10 Senate seats in states that Donald Trump won, a combination of events, including a conviction and cooperation deal with Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; the sleaze factor surrounding Trump and members of his administration; and farmers and livestock growers devastated by retaliatory moves by other countries on Trump’s tariffs, has put an unlikely state in play for the Democrats: Nebraska.

Republican Senator Deb Fischer, first elected in 2012, defeating former Democratic Senator and Governor Bob Kerrey, is trying to fend off irate voters who believe she has not been forceful enough against Trump when it comes to opposing his tariffs on imports from China, the European Union, Mexico, Canada, and other nations. Chinese, Japanese, Canadian, German, and Mexican retaliatory tariffs on soybeans, corn, sorghum, and wheat, as well as beef and pork, have incurred the ire of Nebraska’s agricultural industry and, since Trump is not on the ballot in November, farmers and livestock growers are holding Fischer to blame for their economic woes. Agriculture accounts for a quarter of all Nebraska’s jobs. A 20 percent drop in soy and corn prices has had a drastic negative impact on Nebraska’s economy.

Although Trump won Nebraska by 25 points, his popularity rating in the state has skyrocketed to 47 percent disapproval. This has equated to a jump in Fischer’s disapproval rating, which now stands at 45 percent.

Currently, Democrats are favored to maintain control over their seats in Indiana, West Virginia, and Montana. The ability of Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill to mount a victory against the Republican Party, tainted by the sex scandal involving disgraced ex-Governor Eric Greitens, and Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who is being pulled along by the six-point lead gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has over his racist GOP opponent, means that the Democrats need to pick up a few Republican Senate seats to gain control of the Senate. And that has McConnell very worried. Democrats stand a very good chance of winning GOP-held seats in Nevada and Arizona. Texas’s popular Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke has closed up the race against the totally unlikable Ted Cruz. And popular former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen is leading in polls to succeed Republican Bob Corker in Tennessee.

For Democrats hoping to gain control of the Senate, the icing on the cake on election night would be a surprise upset in Nebraska. Fischer, like Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski, has been silent on Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, the anti-women’s reproductive rights standard bearer, Brett Kavanaugh. That means that Fischer has not only irritated Nebraska’s farmers, but also moderate Republican women in the suburbs of Omaha.

For Nebraskans, whose state is the only one with a non-partisan unicameral legislature, politics in Washington has become the enemy. Fischer, the incumbent, is part of the despised Washington establishment and that is helping her Democratic opponent, Lincoln City Council member Jane Raybould, who is a former candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Hurting Fischer was a bruising primary fight with Republican Todd Watson, who, like Raybould, accused the Republican senator of being too cozy with Trump as his tariffs brought economic strife to Nebraska.

While Fischer racks up endorsements from fat cat businessmen and cash from lobbyists, Raybould has been out talking to Nebraska’s beleaguered farmers and livestock growers. She has also shared in the frustration of Nebraska’s agricultural workers who have seen nothing in the way of financial support promised by Trump to offset the damage of his tariff policies.

As an heiress to her family’s B&R Stores grocery chain, Raybould also understands how Trump’s tariffs have increased the prices on supermarket shelves. If Nebraska turns into a horse race on election night, it is because the anticipated Democratic wave will have turned into a tsunami.

Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.

Copyright © 2018

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).

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