SPOTLIGHT

Lee Terry’s Declining Returns

with Rep. Ed Whitfield (2R), R-KY, and Rep. Bobby Rush, D-IL, during a meeting of the House Rules Committee on Capitol Hill on May 21, 2013 in Washington. The committee met to discuss legislation to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring Canadian tar sand oil to refineries in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. 
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Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
May 14, 2014, 7:40 a.m.

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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