Update 11:15PM est: Deb Fischer is starting to pull away in the senate primary race in Nebraska, and has been declared the winner of the GOP Primary. AG Bruning, the establishment pick, was expected to walk away with this race as little as two weeks ago. It's Fischer 40.2% to 36% for Bruning. Tonight's math formula is Palin > the establishment > Jim DeMint + Freedom Works + Club for Growth.
Update 10:37PM est: Deb Fischer takes the lead in Nebraska. 38.6%-37.2%. Ted Cruz smiling, Dan Llijenquist glad to be last int he primary cycle. Tons of momentum could be headed his way
Update 10:25PM est: Returns show the gap now just 1.2% with 38.1% for Bruning, and 36.9% Fischer.
Update 10:15PM est: With 32% of the vote in, Palin-backed Senate candidate Deb Fisher is within 3% of establishment pick Bruning. The lead has narrowed to 39-36%. Stenberg, who was endorsed by most other tea party groups, is in distant 3rd at 21%. Palin power? Note: The only two general election polls done featuring Fischer vs Democrat Bob Kerrey had Fischer winning by 10 and 12 points, despite low name recognition.
Original Post: In the May 15th Nebraska Republican primary for Senate, John Bruning was the establishment favorite. Jim DeMint and a number of tea party organizations backed a second candidate, former Attorney General Don Stenberg. But days after a poll found a third candidate, Deb Fischer, trailing by 16 points, Sarah Palin gave a surprise endorsement of the underfunded underdog.
Many naysayers have dismissed Palin's influence, instead suggesting that her endorsements had little effect as the candidates were rising in the polls anyway. But the coincidences are far too many and the number of out-of-nowhere candidates to win (or come darn close to winning) are simply too plentiful to ignore. In 2010, it was Governor Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Joe Miller in Alaska, and Karen Handel in Georgia (among many others) who were given big boosts in their eventual underdog primary bids.
Most notably, Sarah Palin did not endorse a candidate for President in 2012, though both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum claimed at one point or another they had her support. (Palin stated she voted for Newt in Alaska, but her "keep the race going" strategy was hardly a ringing endorsement.)
In addition to Fischer in Nebraska, Texas Republican Ted Cruz is touting his Palin endorsement as he attempts to pull a Rubio in Texas and defeat the establishment candidate in the Senate Primary. Two weeks ago, Richard Mourdock ousted longtime US Senator/professional RINO Richard Lugar in the senate primary in Indiana. While many expected to win late, his Palin endorsement was most buzzworthy and his 20+ point margin was much greater than anyone anticipated.