Most of the strongest ads this cycle are attack ads, but not all of them. This ad plays up the deep Nebraska roots and classic good looks of Scott Kleeb, a fourth-generation Nebraskan whose grandfather was born in a dug-out outside of Broken Bow. (You won’t learn a lot about the Ph.D. Kleeb got from Yale.) In this Hallmark card of an ad, talking heads praise Mr. Kleeb while the sun-dappled candidate rides a horse in iconic cowboy style. Mr. Kleeb is running in a district that President Bush won 3-1 in 2004, but one recent poll shows him nearly even with his Republican opponent, Adrian Smith. ~Adam Cohen, The New York Times

Does anyone else get the sense that Scott Kleeb represents at least some of the old Democratic and Populist spirit of the Plains states?  Doesn’t it say something about how miserably the GOP is doing this year that a district like NE-3 is even competitive?  According to Wikipedia:

It is generally a safe seat for the Republicans; since 1935 the seat has been held by the GOP for all but two years. 

How is Kleeb doing it?  Well, The Yale Herald (Kleeb is, alas, a Yalie) reported last week:

Kleeb’s centrist campaign reflects his complex political background. Nebraska’s Third is solidly red, and Kleeb is a Democrat with an “A” rating from the NRA who opposes abortion except in emergencies.

That last point puts him well to the right of some of Nebraska’s Republican representatives.  He probably won’t win, but he is keeping it far, far closer than it should ever be:

Twenty-six days remain until the midterm election and Scott Kleeb is active on the campaign trail, which for him means visiting farms, marching in parades, and shooting clay targets with his 12-gauge shotgun. In his campaign’s most recent poll Kleeb is down only four points, at 41 percent to 37. However, those figures represent “definite voters”; among “likely voters,” Kleeb is trailing 31 to 40. “My district hasn’t been represented by a Democrat since 1958,” Kleeb said simply. When discussing Kleeb’s chances for success, David Mayhew answered, “Yeah, it’s not likely—but I wouldn’t rule it out.”   

CQPolitics has changed its rating from Safe Republican to Republican Favored.  This is a district, as the Times reports, that elected the outgoing Tom Osborne with 87% of the vote in 2004.  Bush won 75% of the district’s votes in 2004.  For anyone to be mentioning this as a remotely competitive race is a confirmation that this year will be disastrous for the GOP.  The Post picks up the AP wire to add to the Kleeb buzz here

If the Democrats can pick up more Scott Kleebs and drop more Cynthia McKinneys they might just become a permanently serious contender on the national level again.