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Endorsements emphasized in Neb. US Senate race

Associated Press Modified: November 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm •  Published: November 5, 2012

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — In one of her final campaign events before the election, GOP Senate candidate Deb Fischer was flanked Monday by Dave Heineman, the popular Republican governor who has repeatedly assured voters in the last week they can trust the rancher and two-term legislator.

Fischer's campaign has been based on her solid conservative credentials and support for erasing the federal deficit solely with spending cuts. But as Tuesday's election has neared and polls have shown a tighter race with Democrat Bob Kerrey, Fischer, 61, has relied more on support by Heineman, Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns and the state's three GOP congressmen.

The outcome of the Senate race could have national repercussions as Republicans hope to take control of the Senate, though national polls have left Democrats optimistic they'll retain the majority. Nebraska voters also will decide Tuesday whether to re-elect the state's three Republican congressmen and will consider four ballot measures.

Fischer campaign manager Aaron Trost said it's clear why she turned to Heineman, who was resoundingly re-elected in 2010. Recent polling by the Omaha World-Herald has shown that only 16 percent of Nebraska residents disapprove of his performance.

"Those are Nebraska leaders that are very well thought-of, and campaigning with them appeals to Republicans, Democrats and independents," Trost said.

For the past week, Fischer campaigned in five cities with Heineman, Johanns and at least one member of Nebraska's U.S. House delegation by her side. The last event on her final, full day of campaigning was scheduled in Omaha on Monday.

Heineman played down his role Monday as one of Fischer's chief advocates.

"The most important endorsement is that of Nebraska citizens," Heineman said during a conference call with reporters.

But Kerrey, 69, a former governor and two-term senator who returned to Nebraska to run again for U.S. Senate, has a few Republican endorsements up his sleeve.

Last week, Kerrey held a news conference with former Nebraska U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican. Hagel praised his former colleague, saying the nation needed his bipartisan approach. Kerrey also has been backed by former GOP Sens. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Warren Rudman of New Hampshire, as well as Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman.

On Monday, Kerrey opted to surround himself with journalism students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha before holding a final evening rally at his campaign office.

Kerrey said the flurry of endorsements only buttresses his message.

"The endorsements that I've gotten are from people who are not Democrats," Kerrey said. "It reinforces the promise I've been making all along, which is to cross party lines and to actually work with Republicans to solve problems."

Kerrey said his work on the 9/11 commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks is proof of his bipartisan record, because the Democrats on the commission were pressured to blame President George W. Bush, while the Republicans were pressured to blame President Bill Clinton.

"We did neither, and it had a big impact on making the country safer," Kerrey said.

Among other races before voters Tuesday, the most attention has been on the Omaha-focused 2nd Congressional District, where Democrat John Ewing is trying to unseat seven-term Republican incumbent Lee Terry. They've campaigned on the need to balance the federal budget, with both candidates arguing their past proves they're up to the task.

Democrats are challenging Nebraska's other two Republican congressmen, but incumbent U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith are expected to win easily because their districts are overwhelmingly Republican.

Voters also will decide the winner of 26 seats in the 49-member Nebraska Legislature. Republicans are guaranteed at least 24 seats next year, so the party only needs to win one of the 12 Democrat-vs.-Republican races to maintain control.

Four ballot measures are being put to the voters. The proposals would, if passed, enshrine hunting and fishing in the state constitution, increase legislator pay, allow lawmakers to serve up to three terms and make it easier to impeach officials.


Funk contributed to this report from Omaha, Neb.


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