COZAD, Neb. — State Sen. Deb Fischer stood in front of about 55 people seated on folding chairs in the 100th Meridian Museum and knew she was among friends.
Some of the Fischer supporters here and at other campaign stops Tuesday were personal friends — like Al Svajgr, a 69-year-old cattleman and banker who introduced Fischer to the group.
Others were political allies in GOP-dominated central Nebraska — fully onboard with Fischer's call for balanced budgets and less government regulation, and eager to help Fischer defeat her Democratic rival, former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey.
Still others just liked her.
“She seems so much like we are in this part of the country,” said Teresa Sumstine, 53, who owns a beauty salon in Minden and attended a Fischer coffee in a Kearney real estate office.
Two weeks before Nebraska selects its next senator, Fischer spent the day in a part of the state where she hopes to pile up a big margin over Kerrey to offset his strength in the Omaha area.
The World-Herald Poll conducted Sept. 17-20 showed Fischer with a nearly 2-to-1 lead in the 3rd Congressional District, which covers the western two-thirds of the state. Kerrey had a slight edge in the Omaha-based 2nd District.
Fischer's campaign stops Tuesday included staunchly Republican areas.
Dawson County, which includes Cozad, has twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats. The same is true in Buffalo County, which includes Kearney and Gibbon.
Fischer made a low-key pitch in Cozad, spelling out the ways she differs from Kerrey, lamenting the national debt and promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has come to be known as Obamacare.
When her comment about the new health care law prompted nods of agreement, Fischer gently teased the audience for not being more demonstrative.
“I usually get a standing ovation,” she said.
In Kearney, 25 to 30 people dropped by the coffee hosted by real estate agent Jack McSweeney and Janice Wiebusch, two of Fischer's Buffalo County co-chairs. McSweeney ordered a cake from Walmart that said: “Good Luck Next U.S. Senator Deb Fischer.”
McSweeney still marvels at her primary win over two better-known GOP rivals: Attorney General Jon Bruning and Treasurer Don Stenberg.
“I sat back and watched them fight each other with negatives,” he said. “Deb just slipped up there in the middle.”
Fischer, a ranch owner from Valentine, has since consolidated the state's Republican base.
Tuesday, her supporters included a Kearney pediatrician who voted for Bruning and who said she respects Kerrey's altruism and ideas for solving national problems.
But Sue Greenwald, 55, said she favors Fischer because she wants Republicans to control the Senate and set the national agenda. She also said she thinks Kerrey would be swayed by fellow Democrats in Washington.
Gibbon bank official Patrick McGuire, 50, voted for Stenberg in the primary. But he said he looks forward to casting his vote for Fischer, praising her as a fiscal conservative. Kerrey isn't, McGuire said. He pointed to the downtown Omaha pedestrian bridge that bears Kerrey's name, funded by federal money that Congress earmarked.
When Fischer stopped by the Exchange Bank offices in Gibbon, McGuire asked her for a large sign to post on his farm.
Fischer said she isn't taking the race for granted, but she appreciates the positive feedback she is getting on the campaign trail.
“Nebraskans are good people,” Fischer said, “They give me a lot of encouragement.”
Contact the writer: