Senator Mike Johanns, a former governor, urges Fischer to remind voters about Kerrey’s aversion to “mainstream Nebraska thinking.” On key issues, such as cap-and-trade legislation, Obamacare, traditional marriage, and abortion, “he’s way out there,” Johanns says.
But Kerrey’s problems may go beyond policy. Nineteen years ago, irritated by the swarm of reporters pestering him about an upcoming vote, Kerrey memorably strolled to a local movie theater to see a Tina Turner biopic, alone, as President Bill Clinton’s economic plan was being whipped.
GOP operatives recall that episode, one of many instances of eccentric behavior, as an example of how Kerrey’s persona may be a factor, albeit a quieter one than others. Most Nebraskans respect Kerrey, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, for his service, but his reputation as a flaky progressive has calcified.
“He’s a competent guy, but he’s done surprisingly poorly in the polls,” says Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. “It’s just too obvious that he has become a New Yorker.”