New video: Fischer speaks during Wednesday-morning GOP press conference.
New video: Bob Kerrey visits with supporters outside Prairie Life Fitness Center in Midtown Omaha.
Video: Deb Fischer's acceptance speech
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State Sen. Deb Fischer is a closer. The Valentine lawmaker's surge to the front of the Republican U.S. Senate pack in Nebraska started late in the primary contest.
Want proof? Check out the early votes cast in Douglas, Sarpy and Lancaster Counties over the past month, many before Sarah Palin's endorsement of Fischer and before a Fischer-friendly super PAC pummeled front-runner Jon Bruning on the airwaves.
In two of the counties — Douglas and Sarpy — Fischer was in third place among early voters, far behind Attorney General Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg.
It was on election day that Fischer climbed in both those counties, substantially increasing her percentage of the total vote to take second place in both Douglas and Sarpy.
In Lancaster County, Fischer was in second place among early voters, far behind Bruning. On election day, she came back to win there.
The Valentine rancher's win Tuesday was all the more dramatic because of the speed with which she rocketed from third place to defeat Bruning soundly, by 5 percentage points.
In the end, she won in 77 of the state's 93 counties.
Her win took many Nebraskans and many Republicans nationally by surprise. It was the talk of the national news media Wednesday, with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh weighing in and national publications like the Wall Street Journal calling around the state to find out more about her.
Fischer's name was listed third Wednesday on Google's hot search trends.
Palin, the former Alaska governor, took to her Facebook page to praise Fischer: “As recently as a week ago, Deb Fischer was dismissed by the establishment. Why? Because she is not part of the good old boys' permanent political class.”
The first word that Fischer was surging came from her campaign early last week, when it released results of a May 6 poll that showed Fischer in second place. Soon, Palin and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry climbed aboard Fischer's bandwagon with high-profile endorsements.
On Friday, former Omaha businessman Joe Ricketts weighed in. His super PAC — known as Ending Spending — poured $250,000 into a last-minute television blitz, touting Fischer in one advertisement while hammering Bruning's ethics in another.
The fact that Fischer's surge may not have mattered if more people had voted early was not lost on Randy Adkins, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
He said early voting is changing the dynamics of political campaigns, with more campaigns working to lock up votes before something happens to change the dynamics of a race.
The push makes sense for campaigns, said Adkins, but it means voters can cast their ballots before all the issues or controversies in a campaign have been aired.
“Voting by mail allows for convenience,” Adkins said. “It encourages participation among people, but it doesn't allow people to change their mind at the last minute.”
One thing that's clear: Fischer is not yet known by many Nebraskans or by many people in the Republican establishment of Washington, D.C.
Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska said his House colleagues kept coming up to him Wednesday and asking him for the low-down on the out-of-nowhere Senate candidate.
“She is the buzz,” Terry said. “She is the talk of the town right now.”
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said Fischer is going to have to work to meet more people in Omaha and Lincoln, where she needs both votes and cash for her general election fight.
Heineman said he has already contacted some business leaders in the metropolitan area, urging them to support Fischer. Many of them, who supported either Bruning or Stenberg, have expressed a willingness to donate, Heineman said.
Several national news media outlets tried to portray Fischer's win as a coup by the Tea Party movement, based largely on Palin's endorsement. But most Tea Party organizations supported either Stenberg or Bruning.
Sen. Mike Johanns took issue with such analysis.
“She's not going to get tangled up in Tea Party and everything else,” he said. “I just think she's going to be a very common-sense, practical conservative, and we need more of that here.”
World-Herald staff writers Joe Duggan and Joseph Morton contributed to this report.
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Deb Fischer's acceptance speech