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Outlook: Solid Republican

November 8, 2006 Update:

Gov. Dave Heineman (R) won reelection over David Hahn (D) with 74% of the vote.

May 31, 2006 Update:

As we suggested for a full year before the Republican primary, Governor Dave Heineman had a real chance to upset the heavy favorite, Congressman Tom Osborne, and indeed he did so in the May primary. Heineman is guaranteed his first full elected term against Democrat David Hahn, a publishing executive.

March 27, 2006 Update:

Our Nebraska sources continue to tell us that the Republican primary race between Gov. Dave Heineman and Congressman Tom Osborne is getting very close. This is good news for Heineman, though it does not guarantee his victory against the legendary Cornhusker football coach.


Dave Heineman will coast to an easy victory November’s electoral contest. His greatest roadblock to reelection was the primary challenge by popular Nebraska football coach, Tom Osborne.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent


The Republican Party will decide the next governor in this heavily GOP state. Governor Mike Johanns left office early to become President Bush’s new Agriculture Secretary, and Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman succeeded Johanns.

The Crystal Ball was returning from a trip to Nebraska on the very day that GOP Congressman Tom Osborne, the famous former U of N football coach, announced that he had decided to challenge Heineman in the Republican primary. While in the Cornhusker state, we were able to survey a variety of politically knowledgeable people. Almost all expect Osborne to win the primary easily, and yet…every single one said Heineman was a competent, fairly impressive governor, who is doing an energetic job. As such, some wondered whether the much older Osborne would impress people on the campaign trail and in the debates.

The Crystal Ball believes that there is some chance–though less than 50 percent–that Heineman will upset Osborne. Usually, voters must have a strong reason to oust an incumbent, even one who has not been elected to the office. But, these are not the usual circumstances. We actually heard Heineman supporters, many of whom are concentrated in the Nebraska business community, suggest that Heineman should step down and run for lieutenant governor for a term under Osborne, and then, after Osborne retires, Heineman could seek a full term as governor. Indeed, Osborne has strongly hinted that he would probably serve only one four-year term. Of course, he could also change his mind, and Heineman–who has worked his entire life to get to the governor’s office–could be in servitude for a seemingly eternal period.

Even though Nebraska can already be safely put in the Republican column (publishing executive David Hahn is the only Democrat to have declared his candidacy), this primary will be one of the most fascinating in the country. This is an odd situation with few precedents anywhere, but football really matters in Nebraska (as it does in Texas).


Dave Heineman (I) – Republican – current Governor and former Lt. Governor

David Hahn – Democrat – publishing executive