(Mario Tama/Getty Images)
OMAHA — Even before a bombshell week of news, Nebraska’s GOP race for governor was rounding into a three-way statistical tie likely to be decided by voters still making up their minds.
The Republican race lacks a favorite between Conklin Co. CEO Charles Herbster, University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom, according to a new campaign poll obtained by the Nebraska Examiner.
The Lindstrom campaign’s latest poll lists Lindstrom and Pillen tied at 27%. Lindstrom polled 7 points above his March numbers, despite facing six figures’ worth of anti-Lindstrom TV ads purchased with dark money.
Pillen’s polling numbers climbed 4 points since March, even though the Herbster campaign spent six figures’ worth of attack ads, including a recent ad questioning the environmental record of Pillen’s hog operation.
Herbster, long the frontrunner in the race, polled at 23%, down 7 points since March. He has also faced six figures in third-party ads, including some funded by Gov. Pete Ricketts, who backs Pillen.
The next closest candidate was Herbster’s former running mate, former State Sen. Theresa Thibodeau. She polled at 6%, up from 3% in March.
The poll indicated that 12% of likely GOP voters remained undecided.
The Lindstrom pollster, 3D Strategic Research, surveyed 500 likely GOP primary voters by cell phone and landline on April 10-12. The poll had a 4.38% margin of error.
That means any of the three candidates could be leading the race, and any of the three could win, political observers said. All the campaigns said they’re seeing the race tighten.
A Pillen campaign polling memo dated March 30 showed Herbster (28%) leading Pillen (23%) and Lindstrom (18%).
“Of the three viable candidates, Brett has the most enthusiasm behind his candidacy and the most room to grow,” Lindstrom spokesman Pat Trueman said. “The ballot may be tied, but the momentum is clearly behind Brett Lindstrom.”
Another highlight from the Lindstrom poll: About 47% of the voters surveyed viewed Lindstrom favorably, with 14% seeing him unfavorably. About 39% viewed Pillen positively and 33% viewed him negatively. About 40% viewed Herbster favorably and 37% viewed him unfavorably.
The Lindstrom polling memo listed the spending to date on advertising by each contender: Herbster had spent $4.2 million; Pillen, $3 million; and Lindstrom, $1.1 million.
Lindstrom had slowed his ad buying in recent weeks, which his campaign acknowledged was done to stretch funds for the stretch run.
April TV ad buys back that up so far, showing Herbster and Pillen spending more than $500,000 apiece, and Lindstrom at $432,000.
Lindstrom’s polling wrapped up before the Nebraska Examiner published a story Thursday outlining the allegations of eight women who said Herbster had groped them.
The winner of the May 10 Republican primary race will likely face State Sen. Carol Blood in November, a Democrat.
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