Attorney General Jon Bruning emerged as the man to beat in new polling in Nebraska's 2012 Senate race.

Bruning held a firm front-runner edge over his Republican primary opponents and opened up a wide lead over Democratic challenger Bob Kerrey in an early general election matchup.

The GOP figures compiled by Public Policy Polling tended to mirror results from most, but not all, earlier Republican primary polls.

The comparison with Kerrey, at an early stage in the Senate race seven months before the general election and prior to development of campaign issues, attracted more attention.

Here's what PPP found in an automated telephone survey of 1,028 voters:

* GOP primary: Bruning, 46 percent; State Treasurer Don Stenberg, 18 percent; state Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine, 12 percent; Pat Flynn of Schuyler, 4 percent.

* General election: Bruning, 54 percent; Kerrey, 37 percent.

Stenberg and Fischer also defeat Kerrey in the early survey.

Kerrey trailed Stenberg by 14 points and Fischer by 10.

Fifty-one percent of the Nebraskans polled had an unfavorable view of Kerrey compared to 36 percent who expressed a favorable opinion.

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson was "a lot more competitive in polling for re-election than Bob Kerrey is now," said Dean Debnam, president of PPP, a Democratic polling firm.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at dwalton@journalstar.com.

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