LINCOLN — Democratic Senate candidate Jane Raybould repeatedly criticized Republican Sen. Deb Fischer for cozying up to President Donald Trump and standing by her party.
Turns out, Republican voters in red-meat Nebraska liked the rancher’s approach just fine.
They re-elected her by a comfortable margin Tuesday to her second term in the Senate, where she’s fighting to move up the ladder of GOP leadership.
Fischer, in her victory speech, said campaigns shouldn’t be about personal attacks. They should be about a candidate’s record, she said. She promised six years ago to go to Washington and get results, she said, and she has.
“People know that I’m getting things done,” she said.
Raybould spoke after calling to congratulate Fischer on her re-election.
“I know. I’m disappointed, too,” she told supporters. “But even in defeat, we have left a mark. ... We have energized new voters across Nebraska.”
During the campaign, Fischer rarely addressed her opponent directly, even after Raybould called her corrupt during the race’s lone debate, hosted by The World-Herald at the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island.
Fischer focused instead on what she called her record of results, including her work to help the Nebraska delegation secure funding for a new runway at Offutt Air Force Base and $1.2 billion in roads funding from an infrastructure bill that she helped shepherd through the Senate.
Raybould, a Lincoln city councilwoman and grocery chain executive, struggled to raise enough money to compete on the airwaves and was swamped by her Republican opponent’s voter registration advantages in Nebraska’s largely rural 3rd Congressional District.
She could not build on from support in Democratic-leaning pockets in Omaha, Lincoln and the Interstate 80 corridor, not even with the active backing of the Nebraska State Education Association.
Libertarian candidate Jim Schultz finished a distant third.
Raybould tried to separate herself by saying she would support restoring several health care provisions the GOP removed from the Affordable Care Act, including stabilizing the individual insurance marketplace and restoring ironclad requirements for covering pre-existing conditions.
Fischer countered largely by hewing to her party’s line on health care, advocating increased choice, increased disclosure on costs and allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines.
One of the biggest flashpoints of the race was agricultural trade and President Trump’s use of tariffs, with Raybould saying Fischer should have done more to defend Nebraska producers.
Fischer argued that the best approach to trade with Trump was talking to him behind the scenes. Public confrontation backfires, she said.
The president eased tensions late in the race by negotiating new deals with Canada and Mexico and South Korea.
Raybould argued that customers lost to the president’s trade agenda won’t come back quickly enough to make farmers whole.
She argued for a more confrontational style, including holding up the president’s appointments.