Sen. Ben Sasse talks with reporters after speaking at the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce luncheon in November.

Opening shot.

Kara Eastman's way-early announcement that she wants a rematch with Republican Rep. Don Bacon in metropolitan Omaha's competitive congressional district in 2020 is the opening shot in what is likely to be a compelling election year.

It will be a presidential election year and that's magnified by the prospect that President Donald Trump may be on the ballot, bringing both followers and foes surging to the polls.  

May be on the ballot, might be, not will be? Yes, who knows what lies ahead in the national drama that continues to unfold?

A few citizen initiatives are likely to spice up the 2020 general election ballot and there might be a high-profile Senate contest that dominates Nebraska's primary election and attracts national attention. 

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse has not revealed his 2020 intentions; in fact, he has purposely avoided making a firm decision on whether to seek re-election until sometime next summer. 

Good guess: He would have Republican primary opposition, and it could even be high-profile.  

Too early to know any of that, but there have been quiet stirrings.

Relationships cemented, campaign contributions distributed, social media profiles raised, some early probing, a direct and apparently unsuccessful contact made. 

Sasse will be raising campaign funds, so he'll be ready in case his answer is yes.

If it's no, a wide-open Republican battle for a prized Senate seat will explode and virtually every big-name Republican will take a close look at it. With an open seat, Democrats might see a possible, although still admittedly uphill, opportunity for a long-awaited breakthrough.

Democrats haven't won a Senate race since Ben Nelson was re-elected in 2006. Their last two U.S. senators, Nelson and Bob Kerrey, won the governorship first. 

The Republicans who are displeased with Sasse generally are unhappy with what he sometimes says, not what he does. He's an independent voice with a dependably conservative voting record. 

And he'll be the big story of the 2020 election in Nebraska if he seeks re-election and has a significant Republican primary opponent.  

* * *

'Twas the night.

Christmas is about to arrive with toys and gifts and Santa and music and joyous kids and families together and rows of candles lighting some streets and celebratory music and worship in Lincoln churches. 

This does not look like a postcard Christmas; winter arrived a few days ago, quietly, unheralded and unaccompanied by snow.

But it will be Christmas on Tuesday.

And the outdoor morning will be gentle and hushed once again.

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* * *

Finishing up:

* Tweet from the DailyER on Husker signing day: "Four-star standout accounting major commits to UNL." Nathaniel Goldberg was listed at 5-10, 175 pounds.

* Gov. Pete Ricketts was an attentive front-row listener during last week's entire town hall discussion in Lincoln on how to build Nebraska's economic future, an event spearheaded by Blueprint Nebraska and led by former Sen. Jim Smith.

* Smith has been matched with a new challenge and role to perform after his departure from the Legislature. Several other departing senators who bumped into term limits this year also ought to be tapped for new roles that make use of their accumulated expertise and experience now. 

* UNL's effort to attract a couple of U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies to relocate at Innovation Campus is a reminder that former Sen. Ben Nelson appeared to be on the verge of snaring a vital USDA research center for the new campus before Congress wiped out member earmarks after turning them into a political weapon. That took away the catalyst that would have jump-started the new campus, speeding its reach and growth. 

* Word from Washington is that those two USDA agencies ultimately may remain in D.C. despite Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue's suggestion that they be moved, partly as a cost-cutting maneuver.  

* It appears that the Grinch has taken up residence on Wall Street for the Christmas holiday. Do not look at your investment account. 

* And the celebrated swamp in Washington is beginning to take on the characteristics of a sinkhole that threatens to swallow up creatures large and small.

* This Husker basketball squad plays like a team and it's loaded with talent. Sammy, the Tim Miles dog who even has his own Twitter account with nearly 1,500 followers, might be dreaming of March when he sleeps on that couch.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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