Tom Coburn, the retiring Republican senator from Oklahoma and an influential conservative, endorsed Ben Sasse in the GOP Senate primary in Nebraska. Roll Call has the story:
“Ben is just the kind of person we need in Washington,” Coburn told the Lincoln Journal Star in a Sunday story. “He is a totally open and honest guy who is very responsive and responsible. If Ben was running in Oklahoma, I’d vote for him.”
Sasse, a Republican, faces a number of other GOP candidates in the primary, including former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, banker Sid Dinsdale and attorney Bart McLeay, among others. The seat is open because Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., is retiring.
Conservative groups are divided between two Republicans: Sasse and Osborn.
FreedomWorks PAC, a group that supports tea party candidates, backs Osborn. The Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund are supporting Sasse.
Being president of the college in his hometown agrees with Sasse, but his résumé suggests no shortage of ambition. He studied at Harvard, Oxford, and St. John’s, then earned a Ph.D. from Yale. His dissertation won the Theron Rockwell Field and the George Washington Egleston Prizes. The dissertation is a treasure trove of forgotten history relating to the populist backlash surrounding the Supreme Court’s school prayer decisions in the 1960s. More broadly, it’s a sophisticated and brilliant dissection of how a lot of the standard liberal narratives about American political realignment in the last 50 years are woefully incomplete at best and self-serving fictions to attack religious conservatives at worst. Given his academic background, it’s not surprising that Sasse has taught history and politics at Yale and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.
But somehow Sasse segued from a strictly academic focus to work in business consulting, at the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey and Company. Sasse soon discovered he had a knack for crisis management and turnaround projects. That, in turn, led him into government. Shortly after 9/11 Sasse ended up as chief of staff for the Office of Legal Policy, a sort of internal think tank at the Department of Justice, where he worked on improving coordination between intelligence agencies. From there, he did a stint as chief of staff for his congressman, the aforementioned Fortenberry. In 2007, he was appointed by President Bush and confirmed by a Democratic Senate as assistant secretary of health and human services, where he worked on strategic initiatives to rein in entitlement spending and modernize health care. Sasse’s health care expertise is considerable, and he has written a number of high profile op-eds criticizing Obamacare.