Ben Sasse (R) swept aside his challengers to take the Republican Senate nomination in Nebraska and Pete Ricketts (R) eked out the gubernatorial nomination, heralding change in the state’s top offices. Another primary result may have foreshadowed more change in the future: Rep. Lee Terry (R) is not looking secure in NE-02.
— Terry took just 53% in the GOP primary Tuesday night, running head-to-head against under-funded, little-noticed challenger Dan Frei (R). It’s the third successive primary Terry’s vote share has dipped. Over the last few terms, his congressional voting scores from a few groups like the Club for Growth and the American Conservative Union have also declined, though Terry’s standing with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, has remained steady.
— Meanwhile, Democrats are closing in on his other side. Terry’s district has gotten more competitive in general elections, as President Obama highlighted by narrowly winning NE-02’s electoral vote in 2008. After winning his first four races with 60% or more, Terry has cleared 55% once in the last four generals, and he won by less than 2 percentage points in 2012.
— Present weakness begets future trouble. Some of the candidates and strategists watching anti-GOP incumbent challenges in ID-02 and TX-04 this year had been eyeing Rep. Mike Simpson‘s (R) and Rep. Ralph Hall‘s (R) primary underperformance for some time before making better-organized challenges in 2014. And while Democrats had some well-publicized recruiting issues in NE-02 last year, the next presidential year could be an enticing draw for a new challenger — assuming Terry’s fortunes don’t continue falling this November.
As Terry said last night, he won, and “that’s the major issue.” But his margins don’t have much more room to decline in victory, and they may be attracting future opponents.
— Scott Bland
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