LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — New polling indicates that negative political advertising and negative publicity may be having an impact in the red-hot, three-way race for the Republican nomination for governor.
It also indicated that 24% of respondents were still undecided on how they might vote in the May 10 primary.
A telephone poll of 505 Republican voters was done earlier this week on behalf of the Jim Pillen campaign.
The results indicated a race still too close to tell who’s leading, with 24% of respondents saying they’d vote for Pillen, a former Nebraska football player and University of Nebraska regent. Conklin Co. CEO Charles Herbster got 23% support. And State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, a financial advisor, polled at 20%.
The results fall within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%. The poll was conducted Tuesday through Thursday by WPA Intelligence.
Seven percent of respondents supported former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau.
In a statement, Pillen campaign manager Kenny Zoeller said “Nebraskans recognize he is the most conservative candidate in the race.”
A spokeswoman for the Herbster campaign, Ellen Keast, said his campaign had not seen any polling numbers that agree with Pillen’s. She said Herbster voters are “mobilized and energized” to turn out on May 10.
Lindstrom campaign spokesman Pat Trueman said his takeaway was that the race is still a “dead heat” and that Pillen has been unable to grow the percentage of his supporters. They see Lindstrom’s support continuing to grow.
Pollsters with Washington, D.C.-based WPA Intelligence said that support for Lindstrom dropped 3% in the past week and that there had been a dramatic shift in how Republicans perceived Lindstrom and Herbster in the past three weeks.
Lindstrom’s “favorables” have dropped 16 percentage points from an April 3-5 survey to the most current poll, from 51% favorable to 35%, the pollsters reported. Herbster’s favorables declined by 12%. By contrast, Pillen’s favorables dropped 5% during that period.
That all coincides with an onslaught of negative ads aimed at Lindstrom, after he had climbed into contention with Pillen and Herbster, and since revelations from eight women, including State Sen. Julie Slama, that they had been groped by Herbster.
Herbster, 67, has denied the allegations and filed a defamation lawsuit last week against Slama, maintaining he was a “victim of a politically motivated and groundless attack.”
His lawsuit prompted the 25-year-old senator and law student to file a countersuit. In it, she alleged that she was “shocked, mortified, and traumatized” after the candidate reached up her dress and groped her inappropriately at a 2019 GOP event.
Lindstrom has rejected claims in attack ads aimed at him that he is a “liberal.” He pointed to his success in getting tax cuts passed for seniors and corporations and to his pro-life votes in the Nebraska Legislature.
Pillen has also been the subject of negative advertising, which claim that he and Gov. Pete Ricketts — a major Pillen backer — are behind the groping allegations against Herbster. Other ads attack Pillen’s hog farms, claiming they are polluting waterways.
In recent weeks, polling has indicated a three-way race for the GOP nomination between Pillen, Herbster and Lindstrom.
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