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To combat that, he’s stressed his years of service to the state, reminding voters that he’s been in Washington during times of great economic growth, such as the balanced budget years of the Clinton administration.

“I’m still Bob Kerrey,” he told the Omaha audience last week. “I look a little different, a little older, grayer, hopefully a little wiser. You know me.”

While battling Mr. Kerrey, Ms. Fischer has also been forced to distance herself from Mr. Romney’s recent comments about the “47 percent” of Americans who enjoy government benefits but don’t contribute to the treasury. She promised significant spending cuts, but made clear the federal government must provide assistance to those who need it.

“There are people who need help and governments needs to help those people,” she said. “Government should be there for them.”