Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Has Heineman Pulled Ahead?

by Kyle Michaelis
A poll by the Rasmussen Report puts Gov. Dave Heineman one point up on Congressman Tom Osborne: 44 - 43%. I don't know quite how I feel about that. Conventional wisdom has had Osborne up for so long that this should come as a big shock, but - having paid attention to the campaign for the last year - it really doesn't.

That isn't to say that I in anyway foresaw Heineman being ahead at this point in the game, but that the race should tighten has always seemed somewhat inevitable. It just wasn't supposed to tighten this much.

I could theorize and subject you all to a lot of conjecture about who's done what right and wrong on the campaign trail, but - with less than two weeks left before the primary - might as well just hold my tongue and wait to let Nebraska's Republican (and Republican-for-a-Day) voters speak for themselves.

Should be interesting. If I had to put money on the race, I'd still put it on Osborne. When 2/3rds of the state sees Osborne's name on their ballot for the first time, there's going to be a sentimental draw there. And, with this the legendary Husker coach's last hurrah, I think voters will prove hesitant to put him out to pasture, especially now that it looks like that's a real possibility.

It's not so much that Osborne will have earned the governorship, but people have enough respect for the man that they won't want to seem ungrateful for everything he's meant to this state over the last four decades.

I could be wrong, but I wouldn't underestimate Osborne's ability to tug on the old heartstrings. The moment Heineman seems to have pulled ahead will be the moment he becomes most susceptible to voter sentiment. Needless to say, this poll is good news for Heineman, but I wouldn't expect him to be bragging up the results. Heineman has, until now, been able to thrive BECAUSE he was the underdog. Take that away - add on a bunch of Heineman endorsements from labor unions and special interests looking to follow the turning of the tide - and it's a whole new that isn't necessarily in his favor.

Heineman might just prove a victim of his own success.

Think about it: Osborne down in a close game. The last seconds ticking off the clock. He's got a chance, but he needs Nebraska's voters to come off the bench and put his team over the top.

Feel that, Nebraska? That's 30 years of Husker tradition on the line.

Will voters answer the call? Should they? I don't know. But, I wouldn't bet against it. We're all suckers for a happy ending. The only thing people like to see more than a titan's fall is a good comeback story.

On May 9th, we'll get one or the other. Choose your own adventure.


Blogger Dave said...

I think the only difference between this poll and Pete Ricketts' poll last week, that showed Osborne up by 1, is that this comes from a reputable independent pollster. But Heineman has shocked me with how well he has handled his campaign - and I don't know if Osborne was ready for a fight like this.


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