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LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has a few widely known habits.
He's big on McDonald's, insists on walking at least 10,000 steps a day to stay fit, and opens nearly every speech with an analysis of Husker football.
He's a sports fanatic who attends NU volleyball and football practice. He even hung out with mega-star Michael Phelps at the Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha this summer.
And if you check out his garb at those events — and many others — you'll see a recurring fashion statement.
This Republican governor in one of the reddest of all states loves red polo shirts.
He has a couple embroidered with the Nebraska “N” and at least one plain red one.
About the only time he doesn't wear a red polo shirt is at an athletic contest for one of the state's non-red schools. He has a Creighton blue polo and has become the fan of another blue team, the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team in Scottsbluff.
But his favorite color is red. He also has has a red Husker sweatshirt And a red Husker windbreaker that comes in handy when he's viewing natural disasters from helicopters and airplanes. Sometimes he wears it over one of those polo shirts.
“I am a Big Red fan, and I like to wear red,” Heineman said in a prepared statement about his style.
To be sure, in the Big Red state, it's hard for a politician to go wrong wearing red, polo shirt or otherwise.
“If I was governor of Nebraska, I'd wear red, too,” said veteran lobbyist Walt Radcliffe.
Red is a power color favored in politics and business.
When John F. Kennedy drubbed Richard Nixon in a 1960 candidate debate, Kennedy wore a red necktie while Nixon sported a dull brown ensemble.
Tiger Woods regularly dons red for the pivotal final rounds of golf tournaments.
And red and blue are the best colors for television.
“It's smart politics,” political consultant Brian Kirwin of Virginia Beach, Va., said of wearing red.
It's also smart business.
“Chief executives who want to exude leadership and authority frequently wear red ties in strong contrast to colors of a suit,” Kirwin said.
By contrast, he said, Democrats or Republicans interested in reaching out to moderates prefer “softer colors” such as light blue or yellow.
People who know Heineman said his preference for red probably didn't come from a consultant. Most likely, it's a personal choice he usually makes in casual wear at outdoor events. He has red neckties, for instance, but he also has ties in other hues.
A former Army Ranger known for his Energizer bunny-like energy, the 64-year-old governor is more than a casual fan of the Big Red. He provides a pretty complex analysis of the prospects for the football and volleyball teams during the first few minutes of speeches at public appearances before moving on to taxes, economic development and other political topics.
Former Gov. Kay Orr said political consultants and aides offered her advice on what colors to wear. Avoid somber colors like black, for instance.
When she was state treasurer, she said, someone advised her not to wear red.
That's a bad color when it comes to financial matters like overseeing the state's accounts, her adviser explained. Red ink means a deficit.
So Orr began wearing other colors, including a blue dress that became her signature look — “Kay Orr blue,” they called it.
“We still kid about that in the family,” she said.
Other Nebraska governors have their signature look. For Ben Nelson, it was striped neckties. Mike Johanns preferred dark suits and dark ties.
As for Heineman, no one is calling it “Governor Red” yet, but most likely, he'll continue to wear the state's favorite color.
“He lives it. He loves it,” said Jordan McGrain of the Nebraska Republican Party. “He takes every opportunity to let it be known that he's a Husker.”
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Nebraska State Fair, 2010
Gov. Dave Heineman and Michael Phelps at the Olympic Swim Trial at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. (Photo from Nebraska Governor's Office.)
In this 2010 file photo, the first dog, or puppy, Snickers, belonging to Gov. Dave Heineman and First Lady Sally Ganem, gives the Governor a kiss outside of the mansion in Lincoln.
JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Gov. Dave Heineman speaks while declaring September Renewable Fuels Month in front of the Commodities Building at the Husker Harvest Days site west of Grand Island.
In this 2011 file photo, Gov. Dave Heineman, left, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker hold a press conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin.
MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD
Deb Fischer, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate and Gov. Dave Heineman laugh at a joke told during the 5 County GOP BBQ held at the American Legion Hall in Johnson, Neb.
KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD