A new public opinion poll gives the appearance that the United States Senate race in Nebraska might be closer than many had forecast, if the incumbent does indeed decide to run for re-election.
Magellan Strategies has released a survey of 645 likely Nebraska voters interviewed on November 20th and 21st. It has Attorney General Jon Bruning leading the field of announced Republican candidates, trailed by state Treasurer Don Stenberg and state Senator Deb Fischer. [click for a link to the survey]
According to the poll, Bruning leads incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson 45% to 39% with 16% undecided. Stenberg is in a statistical tie with Nelson, leading by a mere percentage point, 41% to 40% with a higher percentage of undecided voters at 19%. The poll has Fischer trailing Nelson, with Nelson receiving 41% support to 35% for Fischer. The Fischer-Nelson match-up features the highest percentage of undecided voters at 24%.
Stenberg was asked during a campaign stop in Lincoln if he puts any stock in rumors Nelson might decide not to run for re-election.
“I don’t know what Ben Nelson will do. I’m not a mind reader,” Stenberg responded. “Sen. Nelson has a decision to make, but I really don’t know what that decision will be.”
The poll contains a concern for Republicans. None of the Republican candidates leads in the all-important category of independent voters. Bruning trails Nelson with independent voters by 9%; Stenberg by 18%. Nelson leads Fischer in independents, up 29 points.
The Nelson campaign likely will be concerned that Nelson didn’t receive better than 41% of the vote in any of the races. The survey also contains a curiosity. It matches Nelson against a Republican not in the race, Gov. Dave Heineman. It has Heineman leading Nelson by 18 points, 51% to 33%. Heineman leads in all categories, except for Democratic voters, including up nine points among independent voters.