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What Deb Fischer's Upset in Nebraska Means What Deb Fischer's Upset in Nebraska Means

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What Deb Fischer's Upset in Nebraska Means


This April 15, 2012, photo, shows state Sen. Deb Fischer, left, during a debate against state Treasurer Don Stenberg, right, and state Attorney General Jon Bruning, right rear, in Omaha, Neb. The three top Republicans vying for Nebraska’s U.S. Senate nomination scrambled through a final full day of campaigning on Monday, May 14, 2012, as the race appeared to tighten and election officials predicted above-average turnout for the nationally-watched contest. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)  (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

State Sen. Deb Fischer's remarkable upset victory over Attorney General Jon Bruning on Tuesday night marks the second time in as many weeks an establishment candidate has been taken down in a GOP primary. Here are the four biggest takeaways from Fischer's win:

-- Conservative grassroots activists are having a good month: Long before national groups swooped into Indiana, local tea party leaders rallied around Richard Mourdock. And long after they left Nebraska, Fischer will stand tall as the GOP nominee. If the tea party is going to make strides this year, it's going to be be at the local level, not the national one.

-- The candidates matter: In this race, neither a frontrunner hamstrung by ethics woes nor a yesterday's news statewide officeholder bolstered by outside money -- but running with an 0-3 Senate race record -- was palatable to voters. Instead, a candidate with humble campaign coffers and a conservative message won.

-- It was a bad night for the Club For Growth, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and FreedomWorks: The pro-Don Stenberg groups spent over $2 million combined. And for what? A distant third place finish for a well-known statewide official. The $2 million spent in Nebraska would be awfully useful in expensive Texas, where all three groups are backing Ted Cruz.

-- Republicans are still favored to win Nebraska: Don't believe that Fischer's victory suddenly makes Bob Kerrey a favorite. It doesn't. Nebraska is still very conservative, the statewide environment is not good for Democrats and Fischer has been around politics long enough to run a competent campaign. What her win does do is add a bit more uncertainty to the race -- we know less about her than Bruning -- but the ball remains clearly in the GOP's court.

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