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The Republican Senate candidates believe this race has narrowed.

During interviews last week with the best-known trio for stories that will be published in coming days, all tended to think it has moved closer than earlier polling results that showed Jon Bruning far out front in the primary.

"It's what usually happens," Bruning said.

"I do not take my primary opponents lightly. I expect this to be tougher than previous polls have shown."

The negative TV ad-campaign blitz targeted at Bruning by Club for Growth presumably has had at least some effect, Don Stenberg's campaign advisers believe. Those ads are designed to help Stenberg, who previously received a million-dollar TV ad-campaign assist from the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Deb Fischer's late-blooming TV ads center on her life as a rancher, and those bucolic scenes of her in the Sandhills could be especially appealing to the big Republican vote in western and central Nebraska. 

Fischer presumably also could benefit along with Stenberg if some support is now being peeled away from Bruning. But if Bruning's two chief opponents divide any slippage, he can remain in command of the race.

In fact, that's what the numbers in a recent unpublished poll seemed to indicate. Bruning's numbers shrank, but he still sat in the driver's seat heading into the final lap.

Fortenberry on taxes

Jeff Fortenberry was questioned by The American Conservative about his decision to "defy Grover Norquist" and refuse to renew a pledge not to vote for any future tax increases.

Here's part of his answer, contained in an article about Fortenberry in the May issue:

"Simply looking at the status quo and suggesting that the tax code is sacrosanct and can never change, and that decisions made in the '80s and '90s can never change, is absurd.

"The tax code is weighted toward the ultra-wealthy and ultra-wealthy corporations, and has created an offshore aristocracy of people who can afford to hire an army of accountants and lawyers. This shifts the tax burden to small businesses, entrepreneurs and others.

"I don't want to see taxes go up on any hardworking American. We need a simpler, fairer tax code.

"Removing special-interest loopholes could potentially increase revenues and allow for lower rates."

Finishing up

* A mention of Chuck Hagel in a Washington Post political analysis on Sunday authored by think tank heavyweights Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein: "It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate -- think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel -- are virtually extinct."

* Bob Kerrey and fellow Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton were guest speakers over the weekend at a private event in San Diego marking the 50th anniversary of the formation of Naval Special Warfare and SEAL Team One.

* Both the Journal Star and the Omaha World-Herald now have endorsed Bruning in the Republican Senate primary race. It will be especially interesting to see who the two newspapers decide to endorse in the general election. Start your office pools.

* With the next federal candidate financial disclosure reports not due until May 15 -- the day Nebraskans vote -- Fischer has called on Bruning and Stenberg to join her in releasing their statements early. Those reports divulge income sources, assets and liabilities.

* A New York Times editorial assessing the Nebraska Legislature's decision to override Gov. Dave Heineman's veto of legislation providing prenatal care for the babies of undocumented immigrant women: "For us, that makes Nebraska a beacon on the prairie, for which the governor deserves no thanks."

* Question in Nebraska Right to Life candidate survey: "Would you support banning the 'use' of human embryonic stem cells, either multiple frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization or embryos created for the express purpose of medical research?"

* Right to Life is distributing 65,000 voter guides containing candidate answers to a host of questions and the organization's endorsements.

* The Lincoln Gridiron Show at the Community Playhouse this weekend is titled Occupy Lincoln and will feature the "Pipeline Polka" and a rendition of "The Bed Bug Sleeps Tonight" along with skits lampooning politicians.

* Anybody got an extra starting pitcher?

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at


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