Thursday, September 08, 2005

Osborne, Stenberg Stake "Poll" Positions

by Kyle Michaelis
The numbers are in on a recent poll that shows the lay of the land 8 months out from Nebraska's Republican primaries for the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate nominations. Unsurprisingly, Tom Osborne led the pack in the governor's race, though he polled under the magic 50% mark that would have spelled almost certain doom for would-be incumbent Dave Heineman.

Meanwhile, our old friend Don Stenberg, the perennial wannabe, led the way in less distinctive fashion in the much lower-profile race to challenge Sen. Ben Nelson.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
An independent poll showing Rep. Tom Osborne with a 12-point lead over Gov. Dave Heineman stirred Osborne’s competitive spirit Wednesday and prompted celebration in the governor’s camp.

“I expect it to be a very competitive situation, which is good,” Osborne said.

“I like competing and I’m looking forward to it,” the former Nebraska football coach said.

Heineman’s campaign manager, Carlos Castillo, said poll figures represent “independent confirmation of what we’ve been seeing and hearing on the campaign trail, providing a pretty good indication things are moving in our direction.”

The poll of 305 likely Republican voters by Victory Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, showed Osborne leading Heineman by 49 percent to 37 percent in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary race.

Dave Nabity, the third Republican candidate, trailed with 4 percent.

Ten percent of respondents in the telephone survey conducted Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 were undecided.

The 49-37 margin for Osborne represented a substantial swing from the congressman’s 62-22 lead in the last public poll undertaken for KM3 News in Omaha last May, Castillo said.

“I think this is huge for the governor. If Tom Osborne is below 50 percent, that’s a big deal. I’d say anyone who thinks this is not a close race now has a screw loose"....

Jordan McGrain, Nebraska state director for Victory Enterprises, said poll results suggest the race will be “closer than most casual observers expect"....

Poll results showed former Attorney General Don Stenberg leading the Republican Senate race, with former military hero Shane Osborn running a strong second, even though he is not a declared candidate.

Those figures: Stenberg, 36 percent; Osborn, 21 percent.

Trailing were former Republican State Chairman David Kramer with 3 percent and Ameritrade executive Pete Ricketts with 2 percent....

The Nebraska poll has a margin of error of 5.61 percent.

I don't think much can be garnered from these numbers. Of course, they show some upswing for Heineman, but for all his pandering to rural and suburban voters on local issues of school consolidation with no concern for the long-term health of public education in the state one has to wonder how much more movement he can possibly expect.

If anything, I'd suspect that whatever weakness Osborne may be showing is more a result of the Nebraska Cornhuskers' poor prospects in the 2005 football season than anything Heineman has said or done. If the Cornhuskers continue to underperform, much of the goodwill Osborne built for himself as coach could well vanish as fond memories of the pride and national championships he helped bring to this state become tinged with bitterness. It may be absurd, but I'm not kidding in the slightest when I say the Huskers missing a bowl game is Heineman's best shot.

Of course, in the general election, Osborne would undoubtedly perform better with Nebraska's independents and Democrats, but Republicans are a different bunch that operate by their own strange rules - I won't claim to understand their thinking and can't really say that I'd admit to it even if I could. Frankly, a rejection of Osborne in the Republican Primary wouldn't do much to end Osborne's campaign for governor if he would be willing to run as an independent. But, that would be between he, his conscience, and his loyalty to the big "R" that has milked Osborne for just about everything he's good for these last 5 years in Congress.

On the Stenberg front, these numbers obviously show a lot of dissatisfaction with the front-runner, who has so much more name recognition than anyone else in the running. This probably has a lot to do with Stenberg's being perceived as a loser.

It's early, not to go too far out on any limbs at this stage in the game. Young Osborn's 21% showing is obviously impressive though raises immediate questions as to how many poll-takers are operating on last-name alone, with its obvious advantages as a homophone. So chin up, Mr. Ricketts - you have not yet begun to spend!

All shall be revealed in due time. Keep your feet on the ground, your head in the clouds, and keep reaching for the stars.


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