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Rating Change: Nebraska’s 2nd District
Posted at 8:03 p.m. on July 21, 2014
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., has a history of making races closer than they need to be — and 2014 appears to be no different.
Even though midterm turnout in Nebraska’s 2nd District should benefit the Republican, his inability to boost his own numbers and the potential that two third party candidates will make the November ballot raise questions about the Republican’s electoral health.
It’s been a roller coaster race for Democrats who touted and then lost their top recruit in Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen. But the party bounced back with state Sen. Brad Ashford, who appears to be a credible candidate.
Even still, Terry should have a considerable advantage, particularly in a midterm election, as I wrote in my full analysis last Nov. in the Rothenberg Political Report ($):
Unsurprisingly, there is a significant dropoff in turnout from a presidential year (about 258,000 voters) to a midterm election (about 159,000 voters). And the makeup of that turnout is slightly different. In the last two presidential years, Republicans made up 44 percent of the electorate on average, compared to 37 percent for Democrats. In the last two midterm elections, Republicans made up nearly 50 percent of the electorate compared to 36 percent for Democrats.
But the threshold for an Ashford victory could be considerably lower than 50 percent. Libertarian Steven Laird is on the ballot, and could a few percentage points. But if GOP state Sen. Chip Maxwell qualifies for the ballot, that could be a more significant problem for Terry. Maxwell would be on the ballot as a “By Petition” candidate, and not an “Independent” or some other party, but he could still receive a significant chunk of the Republican vote to hurt Terry’s chances.
The congressman appears to be well-defined but not particularly popular, which can be a problematic position for someone trying to boost their numbers. Terry is raising more money than at this point in previous cycles, but this race looks like it will be very competitive in the fall.