Deb Fischer and the Insurgency

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The insurgents are at it again. No, not in Iraq or Afghanistan This time they are in Nebraska.

Late Tuesday night, it was announce that Nebraska State Senator Deb Fischer had bested primary challengers State Attorney General Jon Bruning and Don Stenberg. She will face former Nebraska Senator and presidential hopeful Bob Kerrey.

Bruning had the most money, best organization, and the endorsements of conservative heavyweights Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

Stenberg, who had sought Senate election three times previously, had the name recognition and the endorsements of South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth.

Fischer received one significant late endorsement, from former Alaska Governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin, who made robocalls along with her husband Todd on Fischer's behalf.

This is not the first time Palin has made a last-minute endorsement.

In 2010, Palin endorsed Congressman Tom Tancredo in the Colorado gubernatorial race. Tancredo, a former Republican was running as a third-party candidate for the American Constitution Party.

In 2010 Palin also conferred a last-minute endorsement on Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell.

Though not quite at the last minute, Palin endorsed then State Representative Nikki Haley in the South Carolina Republican primary for governor just three weeks before the election. Haley won the primary and went on to win the general election.

So what do we make of the value of the Sarah Palin endorsement? So far, only Haley has won the general election. O'Donnell cost Republicans a seat which might have turned the balance of power in the Senate. Tancredo finished second and went back to being a Republican.

Does she only jump in at the last minute once the polls tell her who is likely to win, so she can claim her endorsement sealed the deal? Or does her endorsement pack real political capital and perhaps a several point jump in the percentage of the vote? Either way, Palin is not stupid, nor is she naïve about how our political system works. She is a master.

But back to Deb Fischer's stunning win Tuesday evening. Will she be another Christine O'Donnell, a Tea Party darling and insurgent who has never faced the sort of scrutiny a Senate election can bring and who crumbles under the pressure? O'Donnell lost, the Democrats won 51 seats in the Senate, and Republicans were left to wonder what might have been.

The open Nebraska Senate seat of retiring Democrat Ben Nelson is crucial to Republican hopes to retake the Senate. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent, is not seeking re-election. That seat is expected to go Democratic. Olympia Snowe of Maine, a Republican, will also not seek re-election. That seat is expected to go to independent Angus King, a net loss of one Republican seat.

There could still be other changes or upsets, but right now, there is little path to a majority without Deb Fischer. Win and the Tea Party really proves its mettle. Lose, and once again the Tea Party may cost Republicans a majority.

View Comments