The 60th senator

New developments could make things interesting in Nebraska.

By Thomas Schaller
Published October 17, 2008 5:02PM (EDT)

We know Virginia's Mark Warner and the Udall cousins in New Mexico and Colorado look pretty solid. Let's speculate further that Jean Shaheen holds off John Sununu in New Hampshire, Jeff Merkley defeats Gordon Smith in Oregon, Alaska's scandal-plagued Ted Stevens cannot save himself from Mark Begich, and Al Franken can finish his late-campaign run against Minnesota's Norm Coleman. And then, riding Barack Obama's coattails, Kay Hagan upends Liddy Dole in North Carolina.

That would mean eight new Democratic senators, giving Harry Reid 59 seats. (Including that Connecticut guy whose name we dare not speak, of course.) Where might a 60th, filibuster-proof senator come from?

How about Nebraska?

After he beat Republican Mike Johanns, the former Bush agriculture secretary, in a cow-milking contest last August, I blogged about the Democratic candidate, Nebraska Rep. Scott Kleeb. All good fun, but the actual Senate contest itself was one nobody outside the Kleeb campaign had on his or her competitive-race radar.

But now, with just three weeks to go, Johanns finds himself in a bit of a stew. It's not Stevens-level trouble, but the long and short of it is that Johanns apparently traveled in 2006 on taxpayer dollars to do the electoral bidding of Republican House candidates. That's a no-no.

Kyle Michaels of the New Nebraska Network has much more on this developing story.

Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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